Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Perhaps, at the beginning of the occupation phase of the war, 150-200,000 might have cut it. There was still an army leftover from Hussein, and most of the institutions were intact. Then we fired all the Ba'athists, let those looters run free, slipped up a few more times... and now we're dealing with full-blown militias, a very effective insurgency, highly-developed terror organizations, sectarian strife and huge amounts of criminal activity.
Fortunately, we can cope. Using the right tactics and sufficient force one can bring about security. Unfortunately, you need to maintain that force while expanding the secure area until the insurgency, militia, criminals, terrorists, have nowhere left to run. That's not being done. The situation was recently aptly summarized in a NYT article:
"...counterinsurgency operations have taken on the quality of a whack-a-mole arcade game. Every time the Americans have massed force to put out one fire, they have created a vacuum elsewhere that the insurgents have rushed to fill. When the Marines gathered forces to clear Falluja in 2004, they drew troops from the Haditha area, where the insurgents promptly moved in and executed the defenseless local police near the town's soccer field. The Marines returned in strength to Haditha and established several forward bases, including the one at Barwana, but then many of the troops were sent to the far west when commanders decided to clear Al Qaim, near the Syrian border. And the insurgents filtered back to Haditha."
Once we've established security, economic activity and free-discourse can escalate to the point where Iraq can become a viable democracy, but we simply cannot establish security given our current manpower.
Currently, the American army is trying to substitute for the shortage by beefing up the Iraqi military and police forces, but unless we pull off a miracle (if we do, I won't complain), that just is not going to work.
In chaotic situations, it is very difficult to impossible for a decentralized-democratic government to impose order.
Take, for instance, the Russian Civil War. In that war dozens of democratic rights-abiding governments rose from the chaos of Tsarist Russia, only to be crushed by terror-driven, highly disciplined conscripts from a centralized dictatorship. Ultimately this dictatorship was the Bolsheviks but Wrangel, Denikin, and Kolchak all also had their time in the sun as dictatorial White autocrats (of course all promising democracy as soon as the Reds were defeated, to be fair to their legacy).
So, if left to fight for itself, there is almost no way Iraq's government can establish order without resorting to dictatorial measures.
Which is why they need us. They need us to provide the security normally only a dictatorship can attain while their nascent democratic institutions find their feet. To provide that security, we need more soldiers.
The failure to do as much has been the Bush administration's ultimate fault in Iraq. And it's not like we cannot either. In the first Gulf War, we put forth 500,000 soldiers- and that was just to liberate Kuwait. In this war, yes, the sacrifice of our soldiers has been great, probably too great in light of the harvest we are reaping, but the sacrifice of our nation on the whole has been negligible if not laughable. No extra taxes have been imposed- in fact I believe we've enjoyed several tax cuts, nobody has been asked to put forth a little more, American society on the whole is operating on a peace-time basis- fighting this war with one hand behind the back, so to speak. I'm not saying that we should go into World-War total-war mode, but only that the resources we can bring to the table in Iraq are much more immense than what we have brought to bear.
So, Mr. President, get a spine and put in the troops. You won't get popular support- Americans don't trust you with military operations (I wonder why...?), but what does it matter? Your poll ratings are low anyway and you don't have to get re-elected. Chin up, belly in, and face the electorates wrath. If we upped the number to 500,000 and our military commanders don't suddenly lose their minds, we will see results. In fact, we might even get a viable democracy in Iraq.
Perhaps you're just waiting for December...?
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
The incredible stupidity on display in the allied and Israeli handling of Hezbollah and southern Lebanon astounds me. I hope for the welfare of the Middle East and America that mine is a skewed perspective on the region.
From the beginning it should have been clear to Israel that the key to undermining Hezbollah lay not in bombs and missions.
Hezbollah is invincible so far as military action is concerned: they are an incredibly popular grass roots organization, they have a morally just cause (the defense of ones country) and they will have personnel so long as Lebanon has Shi'ites, thus Israel cannot shoot them all. They are militarily and financially supported by Iran, meaning they will have resources so long as the regime in Iran persists, thus Israel cannot bomb them all.
So military action is not where the struggle for Hezbollah's survival is and will be fought. Nay, rather it is the occupation: wresting control of southern Lebanon's society from the grips of Hezbollah.
This task is simply achieved first by occupying the place (check) then, more importantly, filling those civilian niches in which Hezbollah has always resided with institutions that promote a free and open society.
Not too difficult. Merely give the Lebanese government the overwhelming technical and financial aid to rebuild all roads, hospitals, schools, homes, infrastructure in general and then staff them all. Voila, the government is in, Hezbollah is no more than another political organization. This should not be too difficult an undertaking were it given the support of all those nations that are already sending their soldiers there.
Unfortunately, it would seem Hezbollah is already winning this second, much more important battle. With Iran's unlimited support, they have promised to rebuild the south, and seem to be moving quickly to it.
How could Israel fail to see that it is about to lose any shot it ever had at gaining popular support and strengthening the Lebanese government? How is it that our own government, whose interests lie very much so in neutering Hezbollah, is being outspent by Iran?
I dearly hope I am not seeing the whole picture, that as we speak Western bureaucrats are organizing a massive aid program, but I fear the contrary.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Meet Khalid. He drives taxis in Italy. He is Morroccan by birth, and a practicing Muslim. He speaks three languages fluently: Italian, French, and Arabic, and speaks well enough English (he's learning it) that I could carry on a conversation with him on our brief taxi ride encounter. He thinks his town in Italy is the most beautiful place in the world, was anxious about the upcoming world cup match, and has finally earned enough money to pay for his parents to join him.
Is Khalid a soldier, the first wave of what is a coordinated Islamic attempt to subvert and takeover Europe? Or is he just another man making his way in the world?
I'm going to take the latter. Unfortunately, there are people and forces who would have him, and the millions of other Muslim immigrants in Europe who have not reached his level of integration, be the former.
As explained in the previous essay, there is a very powerful and influential structure devoted to the reinforcement of radical Islam and the idea that the impoverished and politically disenfranchised masses of the Middle East have not their oppressive and downright greedy governments to blame but rather America and the West.
There are three groups, "armies" within Islam that this very propaganda combines with to create anti-Americanism at the least and terrorists at the worst.
First, the masses of the Middle East. They are the principle target, for they are the most capable of toppling the elites and governments who create the propaganda.
Second, the immigrant masses. They are a more indirect target but a target nonetheless. Most fall back on Islam and at worst radical Islam after having been economically denied and discriminated against in their new societies. Iran actually actively targets these immigrants through its financial support of radical mosques and schools towards the end of increasing its influence abroad.
Albeit it is difficult, almost impossible to bring the first group out of its propaganda bubble without solving the root problem by reforming their societies, the societies in which this group resides are already in an optimum state and need only end discrimination and deliver economic aid to battle discrimination in their ranks.
Finally, there are the well-to-do Muslims. Not the elites, those that run the propoganda institutions (Mosques, schools, media) and profit enormously from the Middle East status quo. No, these come from the "bourgeouis", the middle class. These are the most indirectly affected targets and yet also the most dangerous.
As explained in the previous essay, the radical Islamic movement is really operating on the same forces of a revolution: a large segment of society (the Arab Muslim societies of the Middle Eastern oil states, principally) has no economic or political stake in the system, and is thus inclined towards the destruction of the "nemesis" that is denying them said stakes. Thanks to the propaganda efforts of the elites, that nemesis is the United States. The problem? Our very way of life runs contrary to radical Islam, and thus "spoils" their society. The solution? Impose radical Islam on the world. Thus as the Russians once fought for communism, as the French once fought for "liberte, fraternite, et egalite", now these educated Muslims fight for the sharia.
That being re-established, if one examines most revolutions in the past, their most dangerous members, their leaders, are not from the masses themselves, but rather the middle class. Lenin, Trotsky, Marx, Robespierre, and many other revolutionary leaders (and philosophers) all enjoyed a fair degree of both comfort and education and were not affected by those maladies which they sought to cure, yet all the same were emotionally moved by the perceived plight of the masses and decided to take up arms in their name.
Thus it is easy to see that many middle class Muslims, well educated and well off, have, as in all revolutions, taken up (in their minds) the cause of their brethren to fight their nemesis (the West & the United States). Into this last category fits Osama Bin Laden, most of the 9/11 terrorists, and, most recently, most of the would-be plane bombers.
This last category is the most dangerous and almost impossible to stop without going after the root problem. So long as the forces of this global "revolution" remain in play, it will find "heros" in the middle classes. We can do our best to counter the propaganda and beef up airport security, but these misdirected "heros" will continue to fight us so long as we have not addressed the plight of their masses.
Thus albeit it may seem at first bizzarre to blame the plight of a poor Arab in Saudi Arabia for the actions undertaken by Bin Laden and the homegrown English terrorists, such is entirely the case. The root of the problem remains the same: despotic societies in the Middle East whose states beg revolution and yet redirect those deadly forces, through radical Islam, towards the West so as to tender their own salvation.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Our enemy is certainly not Islam as a whole. Yet neither is is it the radical Islam that most our enemies espouse. Were it, it would be invincible. There is no way you can defeat a person a people imbued with radical Islam. As Kevino said, no conventional police force may defend against the suicidal.
Then it is fortunate radical Islam is not the enemy. Nay, rather it is those factors that bring about the circumstances under which radical Islam thrives. Namely, the desperate conditions enjoyed by most in the Middle East: their economies are going nowhere, almost all the power, political and financial, is held by an elite few, and the populace, the majority of which are youth under 25 years of age, are going crazy at their inability to improve their lives and take control of their future. Normally, when a large segment of society loses faith in its institutions' abilities to accomadate them, they lash out at those in charge of the institutions, attempting, in an often violent and disorganized manner, to fix the system by transforming it: they revolt.
The elites in the Middle East are atleast partially if not fully aware of the situation, but they have devised a devious system of avoiding said disorder (and the fate it would bring them): they've passed the buck. Through direct support of Islam and indirect support of radical Islam, they have successfully redefined the situation in the eyes of their desperate society.
The people in charge are no longer the elites who are hogging the oil while repressing reform and political dissent. Nay, it is the United States. The case that we are in charge is understandably easy to make. In many ways we are. We intervene continuously militarily, support Israel, and are always telling them what to do. The case that we are thus responsible for the woes of their society is made easy once religion is mixed in: our culture is "wrong" and thus by merely having power over them taint their society, causing social problems, which in turn is why you, Joe Muslim, are dirt poor, don't have a future, and feel hopeless & desperate. In such a way the oil elites of the Middle East have successfully deflected that malcontent that has in the past been at the root of revolts from France to Russia to Iran. Most Joe Muslims subsequently fume at the United States and cheer when the footage of Hezbollah comes up. A crazy few find the resources or provide the resources to "revolt" against the United States through acts of terror and many many delusional diatribes about how Islam will rule us all.
Thus the enemy is not radical Islam. No, that is just a weapon, a particularly dangerous idea that has been manipulated as deftly as we may manipulate planes and armor in our wars. The enemy is those that have decided the satisfaction of their greed is more important than the welfare of the societies they control. An example: Those Iranian Mullahs who fund Hezbollah, rail against the United States, and advocate their nuclear program are also some of the biggest Iranian propertyholders.
Thus now that we understand the root of radical Islam and the terrorism, anti-Americanism, and, occasionally, sharia it in turn spawns, we understand also the extent and capabilities of the threat.
First, in most open societies, radical Islam cannot endure. If a populace is to support it, they must not have an economic or political stake in society (thus be poor & without a vote) and be surrounded by an institutional & media presence that supports radical Islam. Impressively, through their negligence and the hard work of Iran, such a state has nearly been achieved in many European countries, yet were they to organize politically (begin voting) they would then have a stake (but take note: not control) in society and thus no longer interested in its destruction.
Second, the elites whose greed gives radical Islam its power, being motivated by greed, are also limited by it. Thus we can be assured that Iran, upon nuclear acquisition, will not use the nukes against us, as outlined by JEM. They know that were they to do such a thing, they would lose all power at the hands of an enraged America. Indeed (granted we would never want such a thing to happen for our love of life) the use of a nuke would ultimately be the most positive possible development for the US. We would instantly gain full unwavering support from all other Western nations and would use our military capabilities in such a callous fashion that we would soon effectively rule the Middle East. That is not what the elites want. Like smart drug-dealers, they never buy their own product. They are not suicidal. No, the Iranian elites (they are the best example) use radical Islam and war-mongering only as a tool to control their populace (and use it effectively, as noted by Kevino, Iranian malcontent with the government has dropped dramatically since 2003, the same year they announced the nuclear program), not to actually fight the United States. They will only push it as far as they think it safe and no further. Of course, should they gain the bomb, that "safe" limit may be extended enormously, which is why we need to work against such a thing happening.
Obviously we will continue to fight terror and call radical Islam wrong wherever it crops up. But that's just playing defense. To solve the problem we need to attack the root.
So how do we fight those elites that are spawning terror & anti-Americanism so that they might safeguard their own greed?
The most obvious method is to kill off the elites and institute a free society. We're trying that in Iraq. Unfortunately, that requires enormous resources and, if improperly executed (as has happened in Iraq) might have more negative than positive consequences, atleast in the short term (I still hope for success).
A more practical approach would be to use economic & limited military pressure to force the elites to reform their society so as to redress the desperation of their citizens. In this endeavor we are limited by our dependence on oil, which makes us more dependent on them than they are on us (and prevents us from, for instance, air-striking Saudi Arabia to make a point), and that economic sanctions can be ineffective if unilateral (the case with Iran).
We can also wage a propaganda war. Again, though, we are severely limited as their elites control all mainstream means of propaganda, and they have more experience. Iraq could become a platform for a much more effective propaganda campaign, but again, that hinges on establishing a stable free society there, by no means a certainty.
Finally, we can give them the hug of death. Were we to broker a permanent peace in Israel and affected areas and tone down all other policies that may be twisted to justify radical Islam while stepping up aid programs, encouraging trade (like we have with China), condemning all Islamic rulers that do wrong, and taking advantage of opportune moments to prove our goodness (the tsunami aid is an excellent example), then we might make it impossible for them to denounce us as evil (for we do nothing but good, bring nothing but prosperity) and free the Muslim societies against their rulers will (as is happening in China).
Certainly there is no straight arrow solution, but the fourth mixed in with the other three according to the situation will probably get the trick done. To summate: radical Islam is not the enemy, rather is only the shield of greed. The elites (the rulers, politicians, bureaucrats, clerics, royal families) of the Middle East are the true enemy, for their placement of their own welfare before their societies' is what has created such perfect breeding grounds for radical Islam. As such we need not fear a global war but the anti-Americanism, terrorism, and threat to our oil supplies radical Islam produces merits our effort towards a solution. Any such solution must concentrate on the elites and reforming their societies, and although I'll hear suggestions, it promises to be complicated.If anyone has made the journey, yes, this is the same as a comment I left on vodkapundit.