Navy Ends Retreat On Ship Inventory

The Navy has determined that it must start expanding its shipbuilding immediately, after years of drastic reductions in the post-Cold War era has left the service at half of its peak strength. The New York Times reports that even a modest increase in ship-building may not get the necessary funding from Congress, however:

The plan by Adm. Michael G. Mullen, who took over as chief of naval operations last summer, envisions a major shipbuilding program that would increase the 281-ship fleet by 32 vessels and cost more than $13 billion a year, $3 billion more than the current shipbuilding budget, the officials said Friday.
While increasing the fleet size is popular with influential members of Congress, the plan faces various obstacles, including questions about whether it is affordable in light of ballooning shipbuilding costs and whether the mix of vessels is suitable to deal with emerging threats, like China’s expanding navy.
“We are at a crisis in shipbuilding,” a senior Navy official said. “If we don’t start building this up next year and the next year and the next year, we won’t have the force we need.” The officials would not agree to be identified because the plan had not been made public or described to members of Congress.
The Navy’s fleet reached its cold war peak of 568 warships in 1987 and has been steadily shrinking since then. Admiral Mullen’s proposal would reverse that, expanding the fleet to as many as 325 ships over the next decade, with new ships put into service before some older vessels are retired, and finally settling at 313 between 2015 and 2020.

The Navy will never get back to its former strength, thanks to the wholesale destruction of entire fleets of ships as part of the “peace dividend” that we took, primarily in the 1990s. Most of those ships had remained in service too long, but the Navy never got enough money to sufficiently replace them before the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union. Instead, many had gone through extensive refits, making their retirement a rather easy decision at the time.
Now that we have all discovered that history did not end in 1990 and that existential threats not only remained since then but thrived on our ignorance, the time has long since passed to bolster the Navy to ensure the security of both coasts. In a decade, the Chinese fleet may surpass our Pacific fleet in firepower, a dangerous imbalance not only for us but for our Pacific Rim allies such as Japan and South Korea. That shift in power will signal not just Beijing but other regimes and terrorist bands that the US has lost its primacy on the seas — and that will exponentially expand our problems.
Interestingly, one of the major proponents of expanding the Navy’s inventory is Susan Collins of Maine. Her support comes from more practical considerations, however; shipbuilders make up a large part of her constituency. The sometimes-Republican Senator wants George Bush to push Congress to increase the budget necessary to start putting her voters to work. I’d tend to agree with her in this instance, but the White House will surely feel a strong impulse to take advantage of the situation to get Collins on board in support of other Republican initiatives before committing to her pet project. That’s how power politics get played in DC, after all.
The White House should resist that urge in this case. The Navy needs to start now on its rebuilding effort if we hope to maintain our power gap, especially in the Pacific. Playing politics with this particular issue of national security will make the GOP look less than serious about defense and erode our credibility on these topics, just when we may have repositioned the party for its 2006 run.

2005 Warblogger Awards (Update On 2005 Weblog Awards!)

John Hawkins has announced the results of the 2005 Warblogger Awards at Right Wing News. A stellar cast from the blogosphere has reviewed the bloggers under consideration, and CQ ended up in the top ranks in a couple of different categories. Thanks to all the bloggers who voted for CQ! (And a big thanks to John Hawkins for creating and hosting this set of awards.)
UPDATE: I have been nominated for Best Blog in the 2005 Weblog Awards at Wizbang. This poll allows voters to cast their selections for their favorite blog once every 24 hours. Check out the competition — I’m up against some brilliant bloggers — and make your selection every day until the 15th. And drop Kevin Aylward a note thanking him for all his work in setting up the Weblog Awards.

The Irish Say ‘Olé!’

The BCS has announced the game lineups for the major bowls this season, and the big news isn’t that the USC Trojans will meet the Texas Longhorns for the national championship; that merely fulfills a foregone conclusion after yesterday’s results. No, the big news is the return of Notre Dame to the ranks of the major bowls with an invitation to the Fiesta Bowl to face the Ohio State Buckeyes on New Years Day:

In his rookie season as Notre Dame coach, Weis has the Fighting Irish (9-2) in the BCS for the first time since they lost the 2001 Fiesta Bowl 41-9 to Oregon State. They automatically qualified for a spot by finishing sixth in the BCS standings.
“I think it’s a great tribute to our coaching staff and our players that they were able to turn it around that fast,” Weis said.
While some complain that Notre Dame has bulked up this season on a weak schedule and gets too much credit for a 34-31 loss to USC, the Fighting Irish are college football’s top drawing card.

The only people who don’t appear to appreciate this matchup are Oregon fans, who complain that they have one more win than Notre Dame and Ohio State and should get a BCS matchup. They should talk to the writers who rank the teams — or better yet, take their complaints to the NCAA. They have yet to explain why Division III teams have a playoff system but their top division somehow can’t survive with a rational post-season system. In my opinion, the NCAA could easily build a 16-team or 32-team playoff system that allows for all division champs and a limited number of at-large teams to play in the bowl games as rotated by the BCS now.
The other conflicted person is Hugh Hewitt, whose beloved Buckeyes play against his favorite Fighting Irish. I knew that this dissonance would drive Hugh crazy, and indeed it has. He has adopted the Jerry Brown Fan Rationing System, only rooting for the Irish on even-numbered days, while cheering for the Buckeyes on odd-numbered days. That means on January 1, he will be backing Ohio State instead of God’s Own Team. He may forgive Hugh, but the Irish will make Hugh serve a difficult penance on New Years Day.
Step back from the brink, Hugh. We’re here to help.

Politically Correct Christmas Carols

Okay, I had planned on mostly staying out of the Christmas Wars this season, a madness where “Happy Holidays” has now reached the status of a war cry. However, while the First Mate and I went out for our first whack at Christmas shopping, we stopped for lunch at Applebee’s. They had a music channel on that rotated through various holiday songs, mostly pleasant if forgettable pop covers of the classic carols.
One, however, couldn’t be forgotten if we tried. Right in the middle of the last chorus of the song, the singer paused and added “Happy Kwanzaa” in the pause.
The song? Incredibly, it was “The Christmas Song” — you know, the one that starts, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” I don’t know the artist who provided this cover, but the irony and the stupidity made me laugh out loud, while the FM’s jaw dropped, aghast. Here’s the chorus:
And so I’m offering you a simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Though it’s been said many times many ways
Merry Christmas …
Happy Kwanzaa …
Merry Christmas … to you.

What’s next? “The Little Drummer Boy” playing his drums for Caeser Augustus? Give me a break. The song itself refers to Santa being on his way — hardly a reference to Kwanzaa. Can we just sing Christmas carols, even these secular ones, for what they are? Especially one specifically named for the holiday?
UPDATE: CQ reader Dan notes that the Christmas carol madness continues, although along an entirely different front:

It’s pretty bad. Especially considering at my ‘conservative’ christian college, (Whitworth College, Spokane, Washington) the Whitworth Choir is required to sing, “God rest ye merry *people*.”
Never mind tradition. We don’t wanna rankle people with a *sexist* Christmas Carol. What’s next?
– “Frosty the Snowperson?”
– “I’m dreaming of a multicultural Christmas?”
– “Rudolph the differently-abled Reindeer-American?”
– ’Jolly’ Mature Morally-Gifted Nicholas?”

Dreaming of a multicultural holiday, Dan. Back to the Gloria Steinem Re-education Camp for you! (And wasn’t it “Rudolph the Recovering-Alcoholic Reindeer”?) Seriously, Dan, thanks for the laughs and hang in there.

CQ Media Notes (Updated – With New Appearance!)

I will be on Howard Kurtz’ Reliable Sources today at 10 am ET, talking about the so-called propaganda scandal that already seems to have lost steam this weekend and coverage of George Bush’s speech on Iraq. I may have given the wrong time yesterday, so be sure to re-check your times. I’ll be on with John from Americablog, so we should have some fun with each other.
Also, it looks like my trackbacks might be working again, so give it a shot.
UPDATE: Just got home and watched my segment on the TiVo. Not too bad, I think, and the people at CNN treated me very well. Howard Kurtz gave me plenty of time to talk. As it turned out, John Aravosis and I didn’t really disagree that much on the topics involved (I thought John did a good job as well, although I didn’t know he was in studio with Howard until later — I thought he was also connected remotely). We still had a lively conversation, and I hope I can do it again sometime soon. Let me know what you think, if you caught it.
If the Political Teen didn’t catch the video, I may try to copy and post it myself.
UPDATE II: The White House apparently agrees with me, according to Stephen Hadley:

President Bush is disturbed by the U.S. military’s practice of paying Iraqi papers to run articles emphasizing positive developments in the country and will end the program if it violates the principles of a free media, a senior aide said Sunday.
“He’s very troubled by it” and has asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to look into the pay-to-print program, national security adviser
Stephen Hadley said.
“If it is inconsistent with the policy guidance it will be shut down,” Hadley said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Hadley acknowledged there is a need to counter the disinformation campaigns of U.S. enemies in
Iraq. “But the message we need to get out has to be truth and facts,” Hadley told “Fox News Sunday.”
Even if the stories are factual, “it’s got to be done in a way that reinforces a free media, not undermines it,” Hadley said.

I think that the program doesn’t represent a huge moral or ethical problem the way some bloggers have pushed it. However, I think it will prove detrimental to our long-term strategy of creating a model democracy to change the dynamic of the Middle East. Part of that mission means supporting the establishment of an independent media. The Middle East is filled with news outlets that wind up as mouthpieces for different hidden powers — we don’t need to create more of the same. If we need to create more opportunities to get our message out, we have the resources to do it properly and above-board.
UPDATE III: I will be on the air with the guys at Pundit Review tonight at 8:20 ET, so I have the opportunity to do two classy shows in one day. Be sure to tune in over the Internet and call your questions into the show!
UPDATE IV: I had a blast on Pundit Review tonight — I hope plenty of CQ readers got a chance to listen to the show. Let’s hope that bloggers all over make this a regular Sunday night download! Also, the Political Teen did get the CNN video, and CNN has the transcript up at its site (h/t: Newsbeat1).

Bush Softening Stance Towards Iran?

According to the London Telegraph, the American ambassador to Iraq received administration authorization to review border status with the hard-line Iranian government in an attempt to stabilize the long eastern border between Iraq and Iran. Zalmany Khalilzad will also discuss supressing the Iraqi insurgency and stopping the flow of explosives and weapons from the Islamic Republic, which seems as futile as asking Saddam to remove his army from Kuwait was in 1990:

The American initiative, a further indication that the secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s more moderate diplomacy has replaced the hardline foreign policy of Mr Bush’s first term, follows another recent shift of tactics towards Iran.
For the first time, America is offering active support to European and Russian officials in their efforts to end the deadlock with Iran over its nuclear programme, after previously adopting a hands-off approach – to the alarm of prominent neo-conservatives who back regime change in Iran.
They believe that given Iran’s track record of duplicity in international negotiations, talks will be futile and interpreted as a sign of American weakness.

Unless the talks are just a sop to European tendernesses, it’s difficult to understand this exercise in terms of any real or perceived benefits. The Iranians stoke the insurgencies because they want to make it difficult for American troops to stay in the area, and they understandably want to influence Iraqi development towards their own model of government for their own security purposes. They fought a long, brutal war with Iraq two decades ago and don’t want another. They also don’t want 160,000 American troops on their border for any reason whatsoever. And those are just the rational reasons.
The new Ahmadinejad regime has taken the mask off of the nature of Iranian rule as implemented by the Guardian Council. Their explicit goals are to wipe out Israel, and afterwards come after the United States. Ahmadinejad held a forum on those topics just a couple of months ago and has steadfastly refused to back down from its implications. We could have issued a diplomatic ultimatum on those points alone, had we desired it and had we any kind of diplomatic contact with Teheran now.
Why should Khalilzad get involved in direct negotiations with such a regime? The only result will be a general perception that we have softened our stance on Ahmadinejad and the mullahcracy for which he fronts. If the Iraqis want to negotiate border issues, then they should do so — but with their eyes open about the nature of their counterparts. We should refuse to recognize the criminal rule of both Ahmadinejad and his GC enablers and tell the Iranians through the press to either fix their border problems or be prepared to suffer serious consequences. That’s as much “dialogue” as we need with the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism.

Rice To Europe: We’re At War, You Fools

Condoleezza Rice will confront European queasiness with covert operations head-on during her tour of EU nations this week, according to the London Telegraph, by staunchly defending American transit of suspected terrorists on CIA chartered flights that sometimes refuel in EU nations. The revelation of such flights and secret detention centers in Eastern Europe caused some consternation among Europeans, who have protested the practice:

Condoleezza Rice, the United States Secretary of State, will urge European governments to back off in the continuing row over alleged secret terrorist detention camps in Eastern Europe and clandestine CIA “prison plane” flights.
Dr Rice, who begins a four-country European tour tomorrow, is preparing a “robust” defence of American treatment of terror suspects, as Washington belatedly comes out fighting on the controversy, senior European diplomats told the Sunday Telegraph.
Although Dr Rice is keen to improve diplomatic relations with Europe, she will use her visit to argue that unorthodox tactics are needed to obtain information from detainees and to prevent terror attacks.

The problem with our European friends and allies is that they still refuse to believe that we’re fighting a war. They claim to believe it, but then they act as though one should treat terrorists the same as fugitive bank robbers. Our intelligence services need time and access to get information from the detainees so that we can prevent further attacks, not just on Americans here and in Iraq but on Europeans in London, Madrid, Paris, Vienna, and so on. That intelligence then needs to get checked out in the field and corroborated or disproved to determine whether the detainee has helped or hindered our efforts and to possibly extend the intelligence with more captures of key terrorist personnel.
Publicly identifying the flights on which these transitions occur and the centers where the CIA interrogates the terrorists only will add to the security risks presented. The flights themselves will come under attack, as will the centers. The notion of making those flights public, or simply not moving detainees at all for intelligence review, shows a lack of seriousness on the part of Europeans about the nature and scope of this war. That doesn’t exactly come as breaking news to Americans, who have long since resigned themselves to European cluelessness even after two major attacks on European capitals over the past three years. The Brits understand the nature of the war, and most Eastern European nations understand the stakes based on their collective experience of oppression for most of the past 60 years. As for the rest — they have always preferred to assume the worst about American efforts, and this just presents them with one more opportunity to do so.
Rice needs to make clear that our war effort wasn’t designed to make terrorists feel comfortable and imbued with legal options after capture. We need to know what they know as fast as possible, and we’re going to continue to make every effort to ensure that. The Geneva Convention does not cover them, and our treatment of them has remained humane; that’s as much as they will get. We are fighting this war to win it, not to look good while losing it, and if some Europeans can’t deal with that, that will be their problem, not ours.

Northern Alliance Radio Today

We’re on the air already — and we’re talking about the necessity of getting the White House to push its successes on a more consistent basis, as well as other topics. If you’re in the Twin Cities, tune us in at AM 1280 The Patriot, and if you’re outside of the area, you can tune in on our Internet stream at the link. Join the conversation at 651-289-4488!
Tomorrow, I’ll be appearing on CNN’s Reliable Sources at 9 am ET, talking about the coverage of Bush’s Iraq speech and the kerfuffle over the information campaign in Iraq.

The Flypaper Strategy Sticks Around

Kevin Brock, the Deputy Director of the new National Counterterrorism Center, told the AP that al-Qaeda has not established a “significant operational capability” in America since 9/11 — and the only attempted AQ operation since then fell apart due to the incompetence of its cell leader. Brock also said that while the American effort to secure itself must remain vigilant due to the changing nature of the Islamist threat, the actual effort of terrorist operations have been directed elsewhere:

Brock said he doesn’t believe the invasion and war in Iraq can be blamed for the threat reports that come into his center each day. “That would be too simplistic,” he said. “There is too much of a diverse nature to these threats.”
Had the U.S. not invaded Iraq, Brock said, terrorists would still carry out attacks. “But now they are mostly carried out in Iraq. That is where most of the people willing to commit suicide are going.”

That flypaper strategy that has almost disappeared from debate over the past two years apparently worked as planned. We drew AQ into the open in Iraq, because they understand (better than some American politicians) that establishing a democracy in the crossroads of Southwest Asia represented an existential threat to Islamofascism. The AQ ‘philosophy’, such as it is, argues that the only legitimate way of life for Muslims is to live under brutal and intractable tyrannies appointed by Allah himself, and so are unchallengeable and unaccountable for their brutality. Once democracy shows that Arabs can choose their own leaders and hold them accountable for their actions and simultaneously practice their religion without interference, they will overwhelmingly choose democracy. AQ could not allow that example to establish itself.
So why fight in Iraq, rather than Afghanistan? They tried a stand-up fight in Afghanistan and lost — badly. They got surprised by the quickness of the American response and the speed in which the Taliban mismanaged the war. They’ve tried some of the same tactics in Afghanistan that they use in Iraq, but the Afghanis already know what living under the Taliban’s rule was like and have no illusions about wanting it to return.
The Iraqis, however, knew what Saddam’s secular Ba’athist dictatorship was like, not an Islamic theocracy, which might have had more attraction for Iraqis, at least at first. When AQ attacked Americans, some Iraqis might have supported them. However, as more AQ assets died in that effort, the terrorists turned their attention to Iraqi recruits for security forces and lost any sympathy they may have had.
Now they mostly kill Iraqis while having almost no support even among the Sunni (who favor the native “insurgents” but spurn “foreigners” of any stripe) and don’t even pretend to be liberating Iraq any more. They want to stop democracy and explicitly say so, calling it a heretical doctrine. AQ flocks to Iraq to fight us there, because that front matters most now. And if we don’t fight them there, AQ would be freed up to attack us anywhere else around the globe — including here at home.
I’d rather fight them in Iraq and put the democracy in their backyard that even they acknowledge would present a tremendous defeat for Islamofascism. Too bad that some here can’t acknowledge what even AQ admits.

Another 72-Virgins Moment In Pakistan

The Pakistani army reports that one of Osama’s lieutenants has hit his jackpot of 72 virgins Thursday after getting blown up with four of his colleagues in North Waziristan. Abu Hamza Rabia, a co-equal of Abu Faraj al-Libi in the AQ executive and rumored to be the fifth-highest ranking member of AQ, ran international operations for Osama bin Laden:

Abu Hamza Rabia, an Egyptian credited with heading al Qaeda’s international operations, was among five militants killed in an explosion at a house where they were hiding in North Waziristan on Thursday.
Musharraf, arriving in Kuwait on an official visit, confirmed Rabia had been killed.
“Yes indeed, 200 percent. I think he was killed the day before yesterday if I’m not wrong,” Musharraf told reporters.
While officials said the blast was caused by explosives stored in the house for bomb-making, residents said a helicopter fired rockets into the house at a village near Mir Ali in the tribal agency. …
Intelligence officials earlier on Saturday told Reuters that Rabia was using the alias ‘Nawab’, and they subsequently intercepted a message passed between militants saying Nawab was dead.
They said Rabia had escaped an attack by Pakistani security forces on November 5 in the same region but eight people, including his wife and children, were killed in that operation.

It doesn’t make much difference to me whether Rabia blew himself up or got assistance from the Pakistani Army in dying; his death puts us closer to cutting Osama and Ayman al-Zawahiri completely. The more of these senior commanders that die, the more Osama and Ayman need to stick their necks out to get things done — and that presents more opportunity to capture and/or kill them.
However, if Rabia did die accidentally from a bomb backfire, it calls into question how much AQ has left in its tank in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Why would a senior commander build his own bombs, dangerous work under the best of circumstances, or even be in the same area where that work took place? With its assets dwindling, AQ in that region may not have any more explosives experts to spare, and so the senior commanders might have to do double duty. If the Pakistani reports are accurate, it looks like AQ has lost its best assets in the region and are barely clinging to life in the border region of Waziristan.
UPDATE: Even better news — MS-NBC says the CIA took out Rabia:

While Pakistani officials publicly said Rabia died in a blast caused by explosives stored in a house for bomb-making, officials speaking on condition of anonymity told NBC News he was killed by a CIA missile strike carried out by an unmanned Predator airplane.
Pakistan’s government has always been reticent to admit that Predators are used in Pakistani airspace to hunt down al-Qaida operatives.

Here’s a picture of a calling card from Uncle Sam to al-Qaeda during this holiday season:

If they flip that over, I’d love to think that an inscription says, “You can run, but you can’t hide forever.” The CIA must have gotten some good intel from a series of captures that followed that of al-Libi earlier. That should shake up the rest of the AQ commanders who think they’re tucked safely away in Waziristan, and perhaps get them on the move again — an opportunity for us to take out a few more.