The Warrior Scholar

This is a blog about current events - a way to provide a constructive outlet for some of the thoughts I have on the issues of the day. It's also a way to generate some discussion and to get my ideas out into the world. Enjoy!

Location: Alexandria, Virginia, United States

I'm a doctoral candidate in Virginia, with a love of history and politics. My dog is a great companion, and my family always keeps me in good spirits.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Beginnings of Defense

The Democrats, led by Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Edwards, have charged that the Bush Administration has made the country "less secure" to potential nuclear threats. They claim that the war in Iraq is making us lose focus on both North Korea's and Iran's nuclear ambitions because we are not taking the lead. To quote:

Sen Edwards (Sep 29): "This president has basically ceded the responsibility for dealing with Iran to the Europeans and with the North Koreans to the Chinese – which is a huge mistake because they create such a threat to America that it creates a much more serious nuclear threat to America." Weren't the Democrats complaining that the United States was being too much of a bully and we should work multilaterally with other nations to resolve regional issues...even to the point of letting regional powers take the lead in addressing those problems? (Sorry - I couldn't pass up on that quote!)

Onward to what I really wanted to write about tonight - ballistic missile defense. The United States, for the first time since the end of World War, will have the beginnings of a national missile defense system becoming operational this fall. The first missiles designed to destroy incoming nuclear missiles from North Korea or other rogue nations were placed in silos in Alaska this summer. This fall, the radar system to track incoming missiles and destroy them will achieve initial operating capability. The President pledged in 2000 to field a basic defense for the United States, and he is doing it. The Washington Post wrote today that "doubts remain" about this system on many levels, and I think they should be addressed.

The basic issue is there are two positions on missile defense - either the concept that ballistic missile defense is fundimentally dangerous to the world because it upsets nuclear deterrence relationships, or that the lack of a nuclear missile defense is fundimentally morally indefensible because nuclear peace is based on holding each other's nation hostage to annihilation. Nuclear deterrence in the Cold War basically was built on the premise that the United States and Soviet Union would not go to war because both sides possessed nuclear arsenals that could destroy each other. Both would be deterred from high-risk adventures because both would have too much to lose. The implication of this relationship was that both superpowers had an equal interest in protecting their respective countries, and so would operate under the same risk-taking strategies.

The two arguements against missile defense are bipolar - either the system would work so well that nuclear deterrence will no longer work, or that it is a waste of money because it will never work. The arguement based on a highly effective ABM system follows: Ballistic missile defenses would remove some of the certainty of nuclear deterrence by potentially making one of the superpowers protected from "assured destruction". This uncertainty was why the United States and the Soviets signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. If deterrence no longer works, then the world is far more dangerous. The opposing view is that it is a waste of money to develop ABM because it will never work, or that nuclear weapons can be smuggled in other ways. This arguement is usually associated with people that want money spent on other "more pressing" domestic programs. The technical problem of hitting a missile with another missile has been solved, and the clandestine smuggling in of a nuclear weapon (other than being irrelevant to this discussion), is also being addressed by Homeland Security.

However, in 2002, the United States elected not to extend the ABM treaty because the world had changed. The United States and the Russians no longer target ballistic missiles at each other. Peace reigns between all the major powers in the world. However, there are some nations that seek to use nuclear weapons to "punch above their weight" such as North Korea and Iran. North Korea may have as many as ten nuclear weapons and is striving to develop long range missiles. While some critics may claim that the ABM system will "never work" or that fielding it will encourage the North Koreans to "build more"...both arguements are unfounded. The basic national ballistic missile defense system that is coming on line this fall will provide an element of protection against missiles being built by both the Iranians and the North Koreans, as well as possible accidental launches from China or Russia. There are problems with the system, and it is not fully fielded yet - but the idea that the United States for the very first time will have some way to protect itself against a tyrant like Kim Chong Il is comforting.

When North Korea develops missiles that can range the United States, that places us in an asymmetrical relationship. North Korea is working very hard to develop long range missiles to threaten the United States. The United States has much more to lose than North Korea does - that was not the case in the US-Soviet relationship. If North Korea tries to blackmail the United States and its allies with its nuclear capability, then something must be done about it. The fielding of our first national-level ballistic missile defense is a good first step toward actual protection for our cities against nuclear missile strikes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Iraq, Democracy, and Islam.

I have been observing that there is some hand-wringing about the future of Iraq. One argument that I have heard is that while the United States is claiming to provide both freedom and democracy to Iraq, the reality is going to be that there can only be freedom OR democracy - not both. The essence of the argument is that Iraq is still not free because of the US and coalition troops that are there - that the Allawi government is actually just a puppet of the Bush Administration. Sen. Kerry made this argument when he publicly repudiated the new Iraqi government during Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's visit to the United Nations and to the White House last week. The general concept is that since "freedom" and "democracy" were delivered by force of arms by the United States and the coalition countries (all 34 of them!), that the Iraqi government has no hope of becoming a legitimate form of government. Unfortunately, this argument is simply not supported by the evidence. Let's look at history for evidence first.

The first example was during World War II. Germany was ruled by the Nazis (who were duly elected), and the Japanese by military dictators (who were supported by a duly elected parliament). Was our war to eliminate fascist tyranny and replace it with democracy wrong? The implication is that because these dangerous military dictatorships threatened us, and the American people decided that the only path to security was by eliminating the said threatening government, then the current German and Japanese governments are illegitimate. Using the logic of the critics today, we should re-install the Nazis and the Japanese militarists because we "deprived them of their rights." I don't think that is the right path to take! What happened to the liberal position that we should "free the oppressed" and "make the world a better place"? Removing the tyranny of Saddam freed 25 million people at the geopolitical center of the Middle East - what more could a liberal supporter of human rights want?

Sovereignty has been given to the Iraqis this summer, but we are still required to help assist in security. We did the same thing for the Germans, the Japanese, and other sovereign nations where we took up the slack from a security perspective so they could focus on reforming their societies both for their good and for ours. It is clear that the democratic form of government is both more peaceful and more prosperous than any other form of government, period. See Russett and Oneal's Triangulating Peace for the empirical supporting data. Are people suffering under totalitarian regimes "free to make their own choices"? Saddam and the Ba'athists brooked no dissent in Iraq (ref: crushing the Shia after the 1991 war when the tried to overthrow Saddam), so charges that Saddam was popularly supported just don't bear up well under scrutiny. Now, the Iraqi people are free to choose their future - and no defender of Saddam's old order can refute that! Oh - there was a group of insurgents that delivered freedom at the point of a bayonet, and required one of the great powers to assist them or they would have been crushed. That would be George Washington and his band of warriors...maybe we should have turned down the offer from the French to help...

I've seen some pundits claim that democracy and the Islamic culture are incompatible...which is simply wrong. Of the ten largest Islamic nations in the world, all are now either fully democratic or are moving in that direction. Indonesia (the largest Islamic nation), just had national elections last week and elected a new president. Pakistan, as the next largest Islamic nation, has alternated between democracy and military dictatorship - but not theocracy. Bangladesh, as the third largest Islamic nation, is a democracy; as is India is both the largest democracy in the world and has the fourth largest Muslim population. Turkey is mostly Muslim, yet has had a secular democracy since the 1920s. Iran has two governments - a functioning parliamentary democracy and a non-functioning theocracy that is suppressing it. Even in Iran, democracy is not seen as incompatible with the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. Egypt is a democracy (with some notable problems), and Nigeria and China fill out the top ten Muslim nations based on population. Nigeria has a kleptocracy, and the Chinese have been successful in maintaining their Communist government. However - in none of the top ten cases has it been demonstrated that democracy and Islam are incompatible over three quarters of a billion people! If one desires anecdotal evidence of the desires of the "average Iraqi", here's a viewpoint:

There are some that claim that because of all the problems in our society, that it is sheer lunacy for Americans to desire to export our ideas of governance. Is it arrogance? Arrogance is defined as making, or having the disposition to make, exorbitant claims of rank or estimation. Let's look at that. We live in the most prosperous, most free, and most successful country on the planet. We added the equivalent GDP equal to Argentina last year to ours, and no other industrial country can come close to the prosperity in our land. Our political system has proven to be the most successful and durable political system in the last 228 years - and the logical alternative is??? We provide security and economic growth for over a billion people on the planet which contains three-quarters of the totality of the earth's economy. Ergo - it isn't an exorbitant claim of rank or estimation - it is a fact and should be considered a matter of pride for Americans.

So, what for the future? Iraq will have its elections in January, establishing a fully legitimate (even to its critics) indigenous government in Iraq. The United States and its allies will be in Iraq for the next five to ten years helping stabilize the situation...and if Syria doesn't get its act together and stop supporting the Ba'athists in Iraq, maybe the American army will end up redeploying out of Iraq through Damascus! The "grand experiment of democracy", first started in the United States and now beginning its journey in Iraq, will over time deepen its roots in Iraqi society and play a major part in transforming the Middle East from a totalitarian economic backwater to a much brighter future.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Blood of Heroes

Here's a very good Flash presentation that puts some things in perspective. Excellently done.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Burdens and JFK

I found this on the Mudville Gazette - I thought it was fabulous...kudos to him!

Burdens and JFK

John Fitzgerald Kennedy:
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans -- born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage -- and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge -- and more.

John Forbes Kerry:
We should also intensify the training of Iraqis to manage and guard the polling places that need to be opened. Otherwise, U.S. forces will end up bearing that burden alone.
If the president would move in this direction, if he would bring in more help from other countries to provide resources and to train the Iraqis to provide their own security and to develop a reconstruction plan that brings real benefits to the Iraqi people, and take the steps necessary to hold elections next year, if all of that happened, we could begin to withdraw U.S. forces starting next summer and realistically aim to bring our troops home within the next four years....
The principles that should guide American policy in Iraq now and in the future are clear. We must make Iraq the world's responsibility, because the world has a stake in the outcome and others should have always been bearing the burden.

Evidently for the new JFK, his mantra is: "We shall bear no more price; we shall shirk any burden."

Monday, September 20, 2004

Voting in the Future

I was thinking about the upcoming national elections, and have some ideas about how to make the elections more representative and responsive to the electorate at large. There are only four requirements to be an American citizen: exercising your right (and privilege) to vote, defending your country in a time of need, obeying the laws created by the representatives you elect, and pay the taxes that your representative government levies to help our society. That sounds like a pretty simple formula for American citizenship. Of the four citizen’s duties, three of them have some sort of consequence if they aren’t done – i.e. fines or the like. However, the right to vote has no such consequence attached – even though it is the foundation of our society! So, here’s a plan I’ve been thinking about to improve our electoral process.

1. Have Election Day be a Federal “holiday”. The duty of all citizens is to vote during that day. If a business elects to remain open, that is their prerogative – but all the workers must be given a fair opportunity to exercise their civic duties throughout the day.

2. Do away with voter registration as it stands now, and have voters automatically registered when they get a Social Security number. After their 18th birthday, all citizens are now eligible to vote automatically. I would also tie in the Selective Service database to this as well, so that simply becomes transparent to the citizenry.

3. Institute electronic voting country-wide. The capabilities of today’s information technology allows voting to be done over the internet or via touch-screen voting kiosks (much like the kiosks at airline terminals now) available at public buildings. The votes are then encrypted and electronically sent to the local, county, or state elections office. This will speed the vote counts, and improve accuracy considerably.

4. Manual voting can still be done via paper ballots, or absentee ballots, but the electronic voting machines should be the primary form now.

5. Each electronic voting system would produce two documents – a paper receipt of the vote that the citizen cast, and a second receipt to validate that the citizen did vote because…

6. If a citizen doesn’t participate (they could still elect not to vote, but they would have to state that after signing in), then they would not be eligible for any income tax deductions. No standard deduction, no itemized deductions. This would reinforce the linkage between voting and taxation. The second receipt could be attached to the citizen’s income tax form, or electronically filed with the IRS to indicate that the citizen did vote.

7. Other penalties for not voting could include not being eligible during a fiscal year for various governmental subsidies, tax advantages, or other benefits.

8. The electronic voting system should have the ability for voters to learn more about the candidate. I think that if each candidate was given space to list the five most important positions they are taking, and have three or four bullet-type comments on each position, that would give the voter an idea about where the candidate stands on the issues. This way, the citizen has an opportunity to be informed by the candidate at the time of the vote what the candidate stands for.

I think connecting the citizen’s vote with their taxes is an important linkage. While I would not support hauling people off to jail for not voting, placing some kind of penalty for not voting would be a motivator. If citizens make the direct connection between their taxes and voting, I’m sure that would increase voter participation. These are my thoughts – I hope they get implemented someday!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

9-11 Three Years Later

"May you live in interesting times" goes the old Chinese proverb - and we do live in interesting times. The memory of the terrible tragedy of 9-11 continues to be strong for many in the United States and abroad. I remember that morning vividly - I was at work doing something fairly inconsequential, and one of my co-workers came into my cubicle around 9AM and said "you need to come see this - history is being made today".

I watched with horror as the second airliner crashed into the second tower of the World Trade Center, watched as the two buildings were soon shrouded in flame and smoke. Then, the reports of the attack on Washington and the crash of a fourth plane in Pennsylvania came in, and my colleagues and I were both filled with dread and rage. We watched haplessly as people threw themselves out of burning buildings to escape a fate worse than death, watched as thousands of New Yorkers ran for their lives as the great symbols of American enterprise and power fell. I have family in New York City, and I feared for their safety - but also knew I could do nothing for them in this time of need. I did the math...about 80,000 people in the towers, planes striking half way up. Maybe 40,000 dead? A Hiroshima-like toll of blood? It looked possible. I also remember how my brain was working that morning...almost machine-like. My emotions were running so high...but the analytical side of my mind kept trying to figure out...who did it...what now...what next? How many dead...where will the next strikes occur? In the end, I rejoiced to find out that Al Quida had actually struck the one set of buildings that were best prepared for this kind of an attack. The people knew how to get out better than any other major skyscraper. 3000 dead from 91 nations was a tragedy...and a blessing that it wasn't larger by a factor of ten.

I had to give the terrorists credit...their plan was audacious and well-executed, striking almost every target they planned on - and achieved results far greater than they dreamed. The economic dislocation from the attacks would end up costing the United States $1 trillion in lost productivity, cost millions of jobs because of this dislocation, disrupt an entire industry (airlines), cause the federal government to reorganize, and make the United States government run a deficit for the next three years. Quite an attack! We buttoned up, sealed everything, and prepared for war...

Shock gave way to anger, and anger to purpose...we did not know who did this terrible act, but we knew that we would pursue them to the ends of the earth to find them and bring justice to them. Like now, there were people that I knew that had such a difficult time "getting it." One person I know, who is a fervent pacifist at heart, said "I'm I allowed to be that way?" Yes - you are. These people do not deserve our understanding, our compassion, or our mercy. We must be faithful both to our enemies, as well as our friends and allies, and pursue them with an unremitting drive. Al Quida's bloody trail from Manhattan to Bali to Beslan makes it clear that there is one sure way to deal with this group...and serving a warrent isn't sufficient.

The world changed for the United States that fateful morning...and it didn't. Al Quida, led by Osama bin Ladin, had declared war on the United States multiple times during the 1990s. His followers had struck the World Trade Center in 1993, helped the Somalis attack Americans in 1993, unsuccessfully tried to hijack a dozen airliners in 1995 to pull off a "9-11" type attack in East Asia, bombed American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, unsuccessfully tried to sink the USS Sullivans in Yemen in 1999 - but was successful against the USS Cole in 2000, unsuccessfully tried to hijack another group of airliners for 2000, and either conducted or tried to conduct dozens of other attacks against Western and Saudi targets throughout the 1990s. Bin Ladin in essence took over the defense ministership of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Al Quida training camps were busy producing more muhajjidin in the late 1990s. Al Quida was at war...and we failed to respond. The attacks of 9-11 were only notable because the United States woke up and changed from a nation of capriciousness to one resolute to act. It was not the beginning of the was when America decided to begin its counteroffensive.

Other leaders were at war against the United States at the same time. Iraq waged war on the United States in northern and southern Iraq, firing hundreds of Russian and French-made missiles at our aircraft. Low level war blossomed and raged "under the CNN line" from the end of 1998 because Saddam did not uphold his end of the agreement to disarm after the first Gulf War. He had the tacit or explicit backing of the French, Russians, and Chinese in his resistance to US and UK enforcement of the UN sanctions. The war of 2003 should have been the war of 1998, but President Clinton failed to act. Again, this was not the beginning of the war...we ignored the gathering storm, denied the gathering evidence, and failed to do what was necessary to protect both our security and our allies.

The Iraqi regime also ganered unconventional warriors from Islamic terrorist groups around the world throughout the 1990s to conduct an unconventional warfare campaign against US and UK interests around the world. If Iraq could not overthrow American might by force of arms, maybe subversion and terror would work. Iraqi intelligence agents met with Al Quida in Sudan from 1992 to 1995, met with Al Quida in Pakistan in 1996-1997, and culminated with Zawahiri (Bin Ladin's number 2 man) going to Baghdad and meeting with the Iraqi vice-President in 1998 to set up training camps in Fallujah, Nasiriya, and in the Iraqi controlled areas of Kurdistan. Bin Ladin's public statements picked up Iraqi themes (or talking points) after virtually every meeting. While Saddam and Osama had different visions of the future (one of a secular dictatorship, another of a theocratic dictatorship), the concept of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" applies here. dawn, we slept not because we were ignorant, but because we had a "failure of imagination" (to quote the 9/11 Report).

So what should we, or do we, think about the third anniversary of that red morning? I had the good fortune of being able to be part of that first group of warriors to take the fight to Al-Quida in Afghanistan and helped take the fight to Saddam in Iraq. My contribution was small, but personally very satisfying. President Bush did the right thing...he showed leadership when it mattered. He has not wavered, and has kept his eye on the objective. For this, the nation should consider itself blessed. True American heroes went deep into Afghanistan and overthew the Islamofascist regime of the Taliban. Al Quida's camps were destroyed, its followers scattered. They fought hard, but their fight was futile. Saddam's pseudo-Stalinist Iraq was next - a supporter and base for terror, and the geopolitical pivot point for the greater Middle East. Saddam's evil regime was overthrown by an incredible display of force of arms, and is now on the way to truly reforming the body politic of Iraq. The United States does not need to go forth in search of dragons to slay...killing the dragons breathing fire into its front yard is a good place to start. By eliminating the threat of Saddam's Iraq, the Middle East has an opportunity to go forth into a new future. Libya's Kaddafi gave up his WMD program right after Saddam was dragged out of his hiding hole south of Tikrit. Sic Semper Tyrannus...

And what should we think about the lost? For the thousand American warriors who lost their lives in the defense of freedom, their sacrifice for their country cannot be measured adequately. We are in great debt to them for their service - and by focusing only on that black number is a disservice to them. They died defending their friends, their families, and the freedom of the nation that they deemed worth fighting for. These men and women made a choice that they would lay down their lives for their fellow citizen - and for that, they should be hailed.

We are also in debt to the hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who are among the living...whose training and dedication that grim number does not begin to touch. It is the professionalism of this force that brings the vast majority home alive...and protects to a level unparalleled in human history the innocent on the battlefield. When American forces meet their foes, it is like the scythe against the wheat. No other force in the world applies force so skillfully and so carefully with such effect. Because of this professionalism and restraint, Al Quida has lost the majority of its trained terrorists due to death or imprisonment over the last three years. While Al Quida's new recruits have enthusiasm, they don't have the skills. Hundreds, if not thousands, have gone to Iraq...and not returned. Iraq has become the central front in the war on terrorism. Iraq may end up being Al Quida's grave, because the more Muslims they slaughter in the name of "Allah", the more bankrupt a movement they appear. No "Al Quida" political movement has been successful in any Middle Eastern country. Al Quida as an effort to ignite a world insurrection against the forces of modernity has failed. Al Quida and its ilk are not winning the war on terrorism - they are being driven to the farthest reaches of the earth by the forces of justice.

The fight has not just been a military fight, but a full spectrum offensive. Thousands of Al Quida agents around the world have been swept up by law enforement, diplomatic offensives have deprived terrorists of refuge, terrorist funding has been constrained, and the overall moral degeneracy of Al Quida and its followers has been laid bare for all to see. If Iraq and Afghanistan are able to become members in good standing in the international community, then the draining of the "swamp of dispair and anger" that breeds groups like Al Quida will benefit the world far into the future.

The Ba'athists in Iraq face the same dark future. When they attack American combat units, they die. They then shifted to American truck drivers and other logistics units...with some successes, but now when they attack, they die. The Ba'athists then shifted to the American contractors...who then tied in with the American and coalition now the Ba'athists begin to die again. So then they shift to the coalition troops...who tie in with the Americans and the Ba'athists begin to die. So the Ba'athists shift to the Iraqi police and security forces...and are then discredited for no longer killing the "infidel Americans", but for killing "Muslim Iraqis". Plus...because the new Iraqi forces are trained by the US, the Ba'athists begin to die again. So, in the end, the Ba'athists are left to their old tactics of just terrorizing the people...which will lead to their ultimate political defeat in a democratic Iraq. This will be a long and bloody fight...and with the tide of casualties going against the insurgents at a rate of about 1 American dying for every 15-20 insurgents and terrorists dying, that's not good for the bad guys. Moreover, this is not a Vietnam scenario where the VC were ideologically motivated nationalists. The Ba'athists desire one thing - power. Iraqis know this, and the vast majority (Sunni, Shia, and Kurds) do not want them back. The turn-over of power to the interm Iraqi government was a huge shift in the Iraq conflict...because the fight is now for the future. If the insurgents (both the Ba'athists and Al-Sadr's group) get the Americans out, they might have a shot at taking on the new Iraqi government. They need to get the US out so they can do that - which I don't see happening in the next five years.

So, which is the number to remember today? The three thousand innocent dead on 9-11, or the thousand soldiers who gave their lives to bring justice to those that killed the three thousand? I think we need to remember sadness and respect for the fallen...and with determination and dedication to the future. We do not get a time-out from history. We do not get to retreat behind our ocean barriers and hope the rest of the world will leave us alone. We are the United States. We are the beacon of freedom on a hill that millions try to immigrate to every year. We are the defender of freedom, extending our protection to nearly a billion people worldwide in over forty countries. We are the engine of growth, providing a quarter of the world's economic power (by GDP), the world's most educated and productive workforce, and the market of choice for the majority of the nations of the world. And we are the guarantor of the world order, so that commerce and peaceful relations between nations can occur. These are facts, not aspirations.

Some nations forget this, and become free-riders on this benign world environment. Some allies that should have stepped forward in solidarity to fight this first global war of the 21st century stepped back, even resisted facing the challange. Multilateralism must not be an alibi for nonaction. Now, they are beginning to realize that capitulation in the face of terror simply shows the weakness of their governments and invites attack. Others, like the new democracies of eastern Europe, recognize the war for what it is and sent their legions out to help secure the peace. Lastly, bin Ladin and his ilk recognize the future, and fear their demise because of it. They know they are on the wrong side of history and progress, viewing their future as one that is a throwback to the seventh century. There is no going back to September 10th, any more than we can go back to December 9th, 1941. We must stay focused on our present and our future while remembering our past - we do not get a round trip ticket to go back to the past and change it. The third anniversary of the attack on 9-11 should bring all these thoughts to us. May we continue to live as President Lincoln said in his second inaugural address:

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

Friday, September 10, 2004

Taunting the forgers

Three great sites to check out the fun of the CBS forgeries trying to smear the President: Scrappleface, Instapundent, and Powerline. The humor on Scrappleface is amazing (The Dems just found the 1972 e-mail ordering George Bush to go to work!), and Instapundit and Powerline are doing a great job factchecking what the mainstream media is supposed to be doing. I am enjoying seeing new sources of information coming out to challenge the leftist orthodoxy of the public media. I do get tired of their perspective of "if its a sunny day, we're all going to die of skin cancer". The USA is doing what other nations can only dream about - try to improve the world order, grow its economy, better its people, and roll-back the forces of terror and intolerance in order to make us both safe and prosperous.

Stray voltage for the day

Beginning to get back into the swing of things academically - terrorism and politics being the issues of the day. The bombing in Jakarta (as reported in the BBC) today appears to be an attempt to influence the upcoming Australian elections. This bodes poorly for the upcoming American elections in November. Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Ladin's deputy, released a videotape today claiming that the United States was "facing defeat" (as reported in Al-Jazeera) in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Interesting perspective...let's see...both countries are on-line for elections, the people that the Islamofascists are killing the most of are Muslim (which is just simply destroying Al-Quida's popularity in Iraq and Saudi Arabia), and the number of insurgents and terrorists that have been killed in Iraq is being reported by the StrategyPage is being around 30,000. Generally, the Iraqi and foreign fighters that decide to fight it out with the Americans and their coalition allies end up either dead, in the hospital, or imprisoned. al-Zqwahri is willing to send lots of others to their doom, but I don't see him nominating himself for any missions. The US is actually suffering unprecedentedly low numbers of casualties (as reported by James Dunnigan), with relatively few numbers of troops killed in relation to the number of overall casualties. It is a testiment to both the skill of the troops and the rapid learning and application of technology that is providing an edge in combat. Lieutenant General David Petraeus is working on training more Iraqi soldiers to take on the fight and secure their own country, but it will still take time. We've now got about 200,000 Iraqis conducting security operations, in addition to the 175,000 coalition troops we have in country. The Iraqi numbers indicate a capability a bit more than is really there, because they are not fully trained. Training takes time - we train our officers for 18 years before they get to take command of a battalion (750 men), and Petraeus is trying to get 200,000 trained in a couple of years. The US will have to be there for at least five more years (and maybe longer) to ensure that Iraq doesn't backslide into chaos. The US and NATO have been in the Balkans for the past ten years, and that zone of conflict has nothing on Iraq. Between terrorism to pressure allies, and insurgents who keep deciding to challenge the Americans in combat (and then die), the world is a bit unsettled now. Now for the good news - the United States has over a quarter million deployed troops on battlefields around the world, and they are doing an amazing job. We're lucky to have Americans that will fight for what they believe is right.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Unrest in Central Europe

There is unrest afoot in Germany and France. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats were trounced in local elections, and Chiraq is also taking a pounding in France. The French are now spending 54% of their GDP in governmental spending, the most popular politician has resigned to become a member of the opposition, and their economies have stagnated. The French are having to undertake some "creative accounting" in order to build some new frigates for their navy - they are having private banking houses underwrite the purchases, rather than having them on the government's budget. That to me sounds like there are some serious problems in Paris these days.

Some of the numbers from the IMF are pretty bad for them (all are averages from 2001-2004)
German GDP (constant prices, percent change): +0.6% (currently growing at 1.6%)
German Unemployment Rate: 9.1% (currently 10.2% and going up)
French GDP(constant prices, percent change): +1.3% (cuurenly growing at 1.8%)
French Unemployment Rate: 9% (currently 9.4% and going up)

By contrast:
US GDP: 2.6% (currently growing at 4.6%, fastest expansion of the US economy in 20 years)
US Unemployment: 5.5% (currently at 5.4% and going down)

These numbers indicate that Europe is slowing down considerably. In the lastest EU elections, all the ruling parties were sternly rebuked by the electorate. Only 44% of elegible European voters turned out for the elections in June, and most of them voted against the ruling coalitions. The US press reported it as a rebuke of the governments that supported the US in the war in Iraq, but the Schroeder and Chriaq's parties were hammered harder than the Brits or Italians were. Bottom line: no economic growth and the electorate will abandon you. Leaders have to be more than just anti-Bush - they have to stand for something. I hope that Chiraq and Schroeder don't undo most of the progress that has been made toward the building of the EU - that would be a monumental disaster for Europe, and by extension, the United States. However, there is hope ahead. Will Hutton from the Observer indicates that the opposition parties in Germany and France will likely overturn Chiraq and Schroeder in the upcoming elections. Angela Merkel, leader of the German Christian Democrats and Nicolas Sarkozy of France are both seen as being probable leaders of successor governments to the current Chiraq/Schroeder leadership. Custos Morum thinks that both Merkel and Sarkozy are much more likely to try to work with, and not against, the United States. Both of them espouse policies much more in line with US policy, and both have indicated that their respective countries should be working with the United States, not against the United States. There is hope yet!

Friday, September 03, 2004

Heroism in Afghanistan

From the US Army News Service (see link below):

Maj. Mark E. Mitchell

Maj. Mark E. Mitchell today became the first soldier since Vietnam to receive the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second-highest military award for valor.Mitchell, a Special Forces officer, was awarded for leading a team of 16 American and British soldiers into combat operations against about 500 Taliban and al Qaeda-trained fighters who had taken over a fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, where they had been imprisoned.

Mitchell's actions freed an American held in Qala-I-Jangi Fortress by the rioting prisoners and ensured the posthumous repatriation of another American. Mitchell's citation states that from Nov. 25-28, 2001, "his unparalleled courage under fire, decisive leadership and personal sacrifice were directly responsible for the success of the rescue operation and were further instrumental in ensuring the city of Mazar-e-Sharif did not fall back in the hands of the Taliban."

The Distinguished Service Cross was presented to Mitchell by Gen. Bryan "Doug" Brown, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, in a ceremony this afternoon at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.“It is a tremendous honor,” Mitchell said. “But I don’t consider myself a hero. I am not personally convinced that my actions warranted more than a pat on the back. Wearing the Special Forces foreign service combat patch on my shoulder and serving with the finest soldiers in the world—is enough. I was just doing my job and our mission was accomplished.” Mitchell was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), during his deployment to Afghanistan. He now is assigned to Special Operations Command Central, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

More Heroes of War

From the US Army News Services (see attached hyperlinks):

Sgt. Tommy Rieman

US Army News Service: In a fight, two against one is bad odds. Ten against one is a recipe for disaster. Yet those were the odds Sgt. Tommy Rieman and his squad faced and beat when they were ambushed by more than 50 anti-American insurgents near Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq last December.

Rieman, 24, a team leader in Company B, 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, was awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star for his heroic actions last December day during a ceremony at Devil Brigade Field August 6. He was also awarded the Army Commendation Medal with a “V” device for valor for a separate reconnaissance mission that took place in March 2003.Rieman was in charge during the patrol that garnered him the Silver Star because he had scouted the area before and knew the terrain. His eight-man patrol was in three light-skinned Humvees with no doors when the first rocket-propelled grenade hit.“The thing I remember most was the sound of the explosion. It was so loud,” said Rieman.

They were hit by three RPGs and a barrage of small arms fire coming from 10 dug-in enemy fighting positions. Staying in the kill zone meant certain death, so the vehicles never stopped moving. Rieman knew he had to return fire. Bullets whizzed after them as the vehicles sped away from the ambush and the Soldiers found themselves caught in another ambush.There were maybe 50 enemy attackers blasting away at him with small arms fire from a grove of palm trees nearby. Injuries to his men were beginning to pile up. Out of his squad, Sgt. Bruce Robinson had lost his right leg in the RPG attack and Spc. Robert Macallister had been shot in the buttocks. Rieman himself had been shot in the right arm and chest, and had shrapnel wounds to his chest, stomach and ear. Worst of all, they were almost out of ammo. He began firing away with his M203 grenade launcher, raining round after round down on the attackers. After being battered by 15 of Rieman’s 40mm grenades, the enemy’s guns were silent.

Pfc. Christopher Fernandez

US Army News Service: Pfc. Christopher Fernandez, of Battery A, 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment, was awarded a Silver Star Medal for valor by the 1st Calvary Division commanding general Aug. 13.The Silver Star is the Army’s fifth highest medal for valor and the third highest during combat. The medal is rarely given to enlisted Soldiers.

Fernandez was awarded the Silver Star for his actions on the night of May 5, when his unit came under attack. Fernandez, a Tucson, Ariz. native, was on a patrol through the Baghdad’s Saidiyah neighborhood when insurgents ambushed his unit. An improvised explosive device hit the patrol’s rear vehicle. Immediately following the explosion, the patrol was barraged with small-arms fire. The IED explosion killed two U.S. soldiers, wounded five others and rendered their vehicle inoperable.In all the chaos, Fernandez saw the stricken vehicle’s M-240B machine gun was unused. Fernandez knew that another weapon would suppress the enemy’s fire long enough to evacuate the wounded and leave the area. He left his vehicle, ran to the disabled humvee, recovered the weapon and its ammunition, and then opened fire on the enemy.

What made all of that spectacular was the recovered weapon’s condition, said Capt. Thomas Pugsley, Battery A’s commander. The handguards covering the machine-gun’s barrel, so the gunner’s hands won’t burn, were blown off in the explosion. That didn’t matter to Fernandez though; he kept firing even though his hands were burning.Almost 10 minutes later, the wounded were loaded onto the Fernandez’s vehicle, and the ambush site was abandoned.

Heroes of War

The news media does a great job of telling stories of the poor performance of a few reservists in the war in Iraq, but they have been miserable in telling the stories of the heroes. So, with no further ado, here are some of our heroes. We are lucky to have men and women like these warriors protecting our lands, and it is a shame that they have been so poorly acknowledged. These are press releases from the USMC:

Captain Brian Chontosh
From the USMC: At the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Training Center in California, Marine Captain Brian Chontosh received the naval service's second highest award, the Navy Cross. This was awarded to him for extraordinary heroism while serving as Combined Anti-Armor Platoon Commander, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

Established by an Act of Congress on February 4, 1919, the Navy Cross is awarded to any person who, while serving with the Navy or Marine Corps, distinguishes him/herself in action by extraordinary heroism not justifying an award of the Medal of Honor. To earn a Navy Cross the act to be commended must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk and be performed in such a manner as to render the individual highly conspicuous among others of equal grade, rate, experience or position of responsibility.

While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, Chontosh's platoon moved into an ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), and automatic weapon fire. With coalition tanks blocking the road ahead, Chontosh realized his platoon was in a kill zone.
He ordered his driver to move the vehicle through a breach along his flank where they immediately came under fire. Chontosh ordered the driver to advance directly at the enemy using his .50 caliber machine gun as they approached.

Directing the driver into the enemy trench, Chontosh left the vehicle and began clearing the trench with his M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. When that ran out of ammunition he picked up discarded enemy rifles, not once but twice and continued his attack. Another Marine found an enemy RPG and Chontosh used it to destroy another group of enemy soldiers. When the attack was over, the Churchville native had cleared over 200 meters of enemy trench, killed more than 20 enemy soldiers, and wounded several others.

First Sgt. Justin D. Lehew
From the USMC: Lehew, a gunnery sergeant at the time, was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions that day, March 23, 2003. More than a year later and in the same country in which he earned it, Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, commanding general, I Marine Expeditionary Force, personally presented the medal to Lehew on July 24."This is something you'll probably never see again," said Conway, to the MEU Marines that witnessed the Navy Cross being awarded. "This is second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Lehew was a platoon sergeant for Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Task Force Tarawa, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. They were riding their way through Iraq in amphibious assault vehicles."I can remember the day pretty vividly," he said.Just outside of An Nasiriyah, his unit was the foremost unit overtaking the area where 8,000 Iraqi soldiers were thought to be surrendering.They received a distress call from American soldiers in the area. It didn’t make sense to them because his Marines were supposed to be the foremost unit there."I jumped on the ground and started asking the Marines if they had seen any soldiers around," Lehew said. "They said they hadn't seen anything."After pushing forward and searching for 2 1/2 kilometers they began to see burnt Army vehicles and after a little further, soldiers began to appear. "I saw one pop up in the field we were in, then another popped up on the other side waiving his arms. Then we saw soldiers popping up all over the field waiving their arms," he said.The Marines just happened to come upon them an hour after the soldiers were ambushed. The Marines did their best to help the injured, two of which were critically injured, while under enemy fire."I put my corpsmen with the Army medics, and the soldiers were saying the reason many of them were alive was because of my Marines. I think it was because of their medics doing such a great job," he said. "This wasn’t a (combat arms unit), but they did what they could for an hour until we arrived."

Lehew then had his Marines help the best way they could. They started "lighting up" the Iraqi infantry so they could help evacuate the injured."An (Army) warrant officer came up to me saying he was missing half his soldiers," Lehew said. "That turned out to be the group that was captured including Jessica Lynch."

Wasting no time, the order to press into An Nasiriyah came. While Marine Corps tanks were busy engaging the enemy in the outskirts of the city, the AAVs pushed into the city."Our job was to take the southern bridge," he said. As soon as they moved into the streets a white van with a blue stripe pulled out in front of them and fired a rocket-propelled grenade. The thin-skinned AAVs swerved, successfully avoiding the RPG. The AAVs were all alone once they arrived at the bridge."Once we got on top of the bridge it got quiet for a minute. Then all at once it seemed like Armageddon opened up from all angles of the streets," he said.There was an Iraqi ambulance that was careening toward the front of the convoy. Lehew fired a warning shot but the ambulance refused to stop, so the Marines opened fire on the cab. But when it stopped, and the Marines searched it, they found six Iraqis clad in black. Then more Iraqis in black began jumping out of cars after careening toward a weapons stockpile under the bridge. "Swarms of Iraqis started converging on our positions," Lehew said. "There had to have been hundreds."Many Iraqis started firing RPG's out of windows, doorways and cars. "They were using women holding babies as spotters," Lehew said. "But we had to hold the bridge at all costs."

Reinforcements for Lehew's unit eventually came -- Marine Corps tanks. "I jumped up on the turret of the tank and peeled off the Marine's earpiece and told him to fire on a building that RPGs were coming out of," he said. "And when I jumped off, no sooner than my feet touched the ground the building was leveled."It was right next to a mosque that was left untouched.Lehew ran back to his Marines while under heavy fire the entire time."Then I remember our driver, who was from Georgia, said 'Hey look at those guys going the wrong way with their ramp open,'" Lehew said. It was an AAV from another company whose mission was to take the northern bridge. Its back ramp had been blown open. "I ran 70 meters to the back of that AAV," he said. "The cargo hatch was blown in."On the way to the northern bridge, the AAV's unit had stopped for "surrendering" Iraqis who surprisingly ambushed them by turning around with AK-47s. Other Iraqis joined in with RPGs as Iraqi artillery, which had been plotted beforehand, rained down on them. This particular AAV had tried to come back into the city with casualties to evacuate but an Iraqi with an RPG jumped behind it and fired into its back.Lehew and his corpsman began to pull out anyone he could."When I got to the vehicle there was a young doc from Puerto Rico following me," he said. "He said 'I'm here as long as you're here gunny.'"While still under continuous fire, Lehew and his corpsman were hurriedly pulling bodies and body parts out but they began to lose faith that anybody in the AAV had survived."We were about to leave the vehicle. I stepped into the center of the vehicle to gather the weapons and clear the radios when I heard a Marine gasp," he said.The Marine was underneath the AAV's hatch and was badly injured. The Marine had been reaching for his rifle when the AAV was hit. "Doc held his head as we ran him back to our vehicle," he said.That was one of many wounded the two began to carry back. They soon moved them all inside a nearby house to a casualty collection point set up by the battalion executive officer. There were casualties everywhere and even though the front half of the house was secured they didn't have enough Marines to defend the casualties."You could hear Iraqis in the back side of the house," Lehew said. "All I had was wounded Marines, no weapons. So I helped stabilize their wounds and I ran out to gather up weapons."After gathering some weapons, Lehew went on a search for Marines. "I grabbed two of the wounded Marines," he said. "I grabbed an M-16 and racked a round. I said 'If anybody comes through that way, shoot them. If they come this way, don't shoot them.'"

Lehew distinctly remembers a Marine he saw who was blown completely out of an AAV. He hobbled up to Lehew with several pretty bad injuries."This kid came up to me and said 'I can still fight gunny,'" Lehew sighed. "So I put a rifle in the kid's hands."The intense fire never seemed to let up. Lehew knew he had to get all these men out of there."I started screaming over the radio net to get a medivac," he said. "Finally we started seeing birds in the air."He saw the several helicopters overhead and began to set up a hasty landing zone."That pilot needs to get a Distinguished Flying Cross because he landed in one of the hottest LZ's with power lines and poles all around," he said. Then Lehew, his doc and a few other Marines began running casualties "a couple football fields" to the helicopter. "The last thing I saw was a Marine's feet hanging out the back of the bird," he said.Lehew and his Marines loaded back in the AAVs, and with the tanks firing to the left and AAVs firing to the right, they sped back out of "Ambush Alley." They headed to the northern bridge to support the other AAV company."They had all the advantage points. They were firing so many weapons from the rooftops and streets, it's a miracle nobody died in that convoy," Lehew said.On their way back, they started seeing burnt up shells of AAVs every hundred yards. They stopped to assist that unit.After the dust had cleared and the battle was done, Lehew and his men had evacuated 77 casualties from the scene.He can remember that there were some Marines that all he could do to help them before they were evacuated was to "sit with them, hold their hand and tell them they'd be alright."

A couple days later, around midnight, they were told the Fedayeen were mounting a 2,000-man counteroffensive against them."We were very depleted on ammo and chow, but my Marines still had the attitude of 'Bring it on!'" Lehew exclaimed. "I was lucky enough to go through all this with one of the greatest group of Marines ever."They never had to fight that battle because Marine artillery broke up the offensive before it ever made it to Lehew's men.Lehew feels the events of that day showed the steadfast courage of this generation of Marines."I've heard some say this video game generation is weak, and that they could never live up to the legend of those at Tarawa and such," Lehew said. "These Marines fought more courageously than I could have imagined. Right now, the Marine Corps is the best it's ever been and it will only get better."

Money and Politics

Here's some interesting data on the US 2004 elections on how much money has been raised to date on the election. The financial totals include money that was raised all candidates - including candidates that were eliminated in primaries.

House of Representatives:
All: $465,092,800
Dems: $195,212,026
Repubs: $269,147,618

All: $341,219,731
Dems: $180,070,716
Repubs: $160,833,645

All: $716,289,079
Dems: $469,727,076
Repubs: $243,656,202

All 527 advocacy groups combined: $240,459,633

Based on data released by the FEC on Wednesday, August 25, 2004.

My comment: There is quite a bit of truth in the saying "money is the mother's milk of politics"....

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Unilateral or Multilateral? Can Kerry or Edwards count?

A few comments on comments today...

John Edwards today: The Bush administration miscalculated by rushing to war without a plan for the peace. The Bush administration miscalculated by deciding to go it alone without strong allies. The Bush administration miscalculated when they waited three years after September 11th to start to reform our intelligence.
"...rushing to war..." 12 years of sanctions, 8 years of inspections, 17 UN resolutions, 13 months of intense diplomacy, UN weapon inspectors allowed back in after we park 100,000 troops in Kuwait and five carrier battle groups in the seas around the Middle East...if anything, the sin is one of not acting earlier when the inspectors were thrown out in 1998.... but since both John Kerry and John Edwards voted FOR the use of force against Iraq, I thought they had decided that waiting was over and it was time to go to war.
"...without a plan for peace..." The "vision thing" has been consistent - a free, democratic Iraq after a US-led occupation. The implementation did leave something to be desired...but it has actually gone much better than it has been reported...
"...go it alone..." Hmmm...NATO is in Afghanistan, 34 nations with the US in Iraq, 45 nations conducting combat or law enforcement operations specifically against Al Quida, and 180 nations freezing terrorist financial assets. To wit: one country = unilateral. Two countries = bilateral. Three or more countries = multilateral. Edwards needs to learn how to count.
"...without strong allies..." The UK, Australia, Poland, Japan, and the other thirty nations in Iraq may not appreciate being characterized as "weak allies".
"...(failed) to reform intelligence..." Hmmm...Kerry is on the Senate Intelligence Committee from 1993 to 2000 (misses 78% of his meetings), and John Edwards is on the same committee from 2000 to the present. Looks like to me that these two failed to exercise the oversight required to ensure the intelligence system was responsive to finding Al Quida or confirming that Saddam Hussien did indeed have WMD. But what did Sen. Kerry have to say about the WMDs? "Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction ... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real..." -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003 Considering his expertise on intelligence, I think his statement speaks for itself.

John Kerry today:
"We need to bring our allies to our side, share the burdens, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce the risk to American soldiers."
"...bring allies to our side..." Sandy Berger in Foreign Affairs said losing French support against Iraq wasn't a major issue. Last time I checked, we had 33 other countries with us in Iraq.
"...share the burdens..." So, if you are an ally, you'll need to put up forces. Germany is cutting her army - and the NATO Secretary General has been after the NATO allies for the last twelve years for not funding the capabilities necessary to be allies that are "willing, capable, and necessary"
"...reduce the costs...." So, if you are an ally, we're going to stick you with the tab...
"...reduce the risk to American soldiers..." And, if you are our ally, we're going to push you out front to get shot. I'm sure this sends a warm feeling through Europe now...

Kerry (continued): "To win the war on terror, we will add 40,000 active duty troops – not in Iraq, but to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended, and under pressure. "

This one is pretty good - "Help is on the Way!" (unless you are one of the poor troopies in Iraq, in which case you are ON YOUR OWN!) I'm not exactly sure what 40,000 active duty troops would do for us - if he was serious about really "alleviating" the plight of our deployed troops, and wanted to go to a ratio for every 1 soldier deployed forward, two would be back either training or recovering, and a fourth in the training base, then we would need an Army of 850,000 - 250,000 now deployed forward; 500,000 either training or recovering, and another 100,000 in the support base. So, Kerry is shy about 310,000 troops if he's really serious about this. Oh, and this happens to be the size of the Army under President Reagan...and we didn't need a draft for that!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The end of network dominance of the news?

FoxNews beats broadcast networks for Tuesday night coverage of Republican Convention - Historic Unprecedented Numbers for Cable: 10-11PM







FOXNEWS peak came during Laura Bush's speech with 5,216,000 viewers... [5,124,000 during Schwarzenegger]...