Rushing Towards Disaster?

The insurgency in Iraq and global pressure to end the civil occupation are forcing the Coalition to abandon key goals in order to meet a summer deadline to transfer sovereignty back to the Iraqis, according to the Washington Post:

The United States has backed away from several of its more ambitious initiatives to transform Iraq’s economy, political system and security forces as attacks on U.S. troops have escalated and the timetable for ending the civil occupation has accelerated.
Plans to privatize state-owned businesses — a key part of a larger Bush administration goal to replace the socialist economy of deposed president Saddam Hussein with a free-market system — have been dropped over the past few months. So too has a demand that Iraqis write a constitution before a transfer of sovereignty.
With the administration’s plans tempered by time and threat, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, and his deputies are now focused on forging compromises with Iraqi leaders and combating a persistent insurgency in order to meet a July 1 deadline to transfer sovereignty to a provisional government.

Plans often change during and after battles, and a number of these goals could have been categorized as “blue sky” even before the Iraq war began. Some, such as privatization of industry, sound less negotiable. Privatization is necessary to ensure private property rights, which is a cornerstone of a free society and helps to establish a firm basis for pluralism. However, reality intrudes on this goal, as the article explains well. Privatization at this stage would necessarily result in layoffs, and the last thing that the Coalition needs is more unemployed Iraqi males for potential recruits into the insurgency.
The only issue that should have been demanded by the US as a condition of the end of occupation is the enactment of a constitution, but even that may have been pointless. Had the US refused to end occupation until it was drafted, most of the country probably would have felt free to disregard it as a duress-produced document. The Afghanis seem to be working towards their constitution on their own through the loya jirga process. Undoubtedly this has encouraged the Coalition that the Iraqis may be able to handle it on their own as well, with guidance from the US rather than civil occupation.
The summer deadline seemed like a rushed, politically expedient time frame for the Bush administration, and may still be that, but it is also apparent that without a fixed and quick timetable, we would not get much cooperation from either the Iraqis or other nations on issues like debt relief. In the end, it is most important that we retain a large measure of influence with the new Iraqi government after the end of the occupation, and extending our occupation surely would be counterproductive to that. Unlike the occupation of Germany and Japan, we are still in the middle of a war in the area, and we need to demonstrate that we do not come to conquer but to liberate. Ending the occupation on our own terms and with the support of the majority of the Iraqi people helps to underscore that.

Danish, Anyone?

The Danes, descendants of the mighty Vikings, are trying to conquer the world again … only in a slightly different manner than their first-millenium strategy:

Danes are spreading their genes around the world faster than ever aided by exports from local firm Cryos International, the world’s biggest sperm bank. Each year Danish men donate sperm that contributes to around 1,000 pregnancies, and with increasing demand from Americans, Cryos has opened its first New York office — on Broadway. … Cryos, which has currently accepts only Danish donators, exports to 40 countries.

Well, it’s certainly one way to achieve world domination with as little exertion as possible. Don’t need those uncomfortable long boats, either.

Dean Explained In A Nutshell

Sunday’s Washington Post contains a somewhat brief article titled “Dean Tries to Summon Spirit of the 1960s: Candidate’s Recollections Differ From Historians’ Views of a Turbulent Decade” that explains a lot about the attraction of Dean’s campaign amongst the aging hippie set, academia, and wannabes that make up the most passionate of his following:

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has a vision of where he’d like to take the nation. It turns out to be the 1960s. … His references to the ’60s, Dean makes clear in an interview, are something personal. “We felt the possibilities were unlimited then,” he said last week. “We were making such enormous progress. It resonates with a lot of people my age. People my age really felt that way.”
As history, however, Dean’s memories of the era are selective. Rather than the time of great national unity and purpose he describes, the 1960s were a period of great upheaval, and surely rank among the most divisive for America in the 20th century.

Paul Farhi makes it clear that the mainstream media is about to declare 2004 as open season on Howard Dean by perfectly capturing the hypocrisy that turns everyone else off of the Democratic front-runner:

During this period, Dean had no apparent involvement in the emerging causes and issues of the day. After entering Yale University in 1967, he was a popular but unremarkable student who took no role in campus protests against the war, or in a local issue, the trials of members of the Black Panther party in New Haven in early 1970, friends have said. After avoiding military service with a student deferment, he was eligible to serve by 1971, but presented evidence of a bad back and was rejected. He subsequently spent nine months in Aspen, Colo., skiing and working odd jobs, such as washing dishes and pouring concrete. He then became a stockbroker, following his father, a prominent figure on Wall Street, before entering medical school.

The 60s, as Farhi states, were hardly a model of unity. For a model of unity and purpose, Dean would find the 1940s much more applicable, especially since terrorists have attacked the country and made it clear that they are in open war with the United States (and have been for at least two decades; we were just too dense to notice it). Even the 1950s demonstrated national unity and purpose as the Cold War broke out into the open. But these are eras that the aging hippie set eschews; instead, this subset of the boomer generation identifies with social and political conflict as a kind of war, where opponents are evil and cartoonish and Republican, and long-haired socialists who burn draft cards (and burn more than that) are the true heroes.
Dean wants to evoke not a national unity, but a leftist unity. Farhi makes clear that Dean has no business even evoking such a legacy, distorted and rose-tinted as he makes it, as Dean invested none of himself in the original conflict. What Dean is attempting, in Minnesota terms, is to hijack the Wellstone legacy and assume it for himself without paying any of the dues that Wellstone did. I was no fan of Paul Wellstone’s politics — I think that Wellstone stood for socialism and dangerous deconstruction of American security, but Wellstone at least would have legitimate claim to the legacy that Dean is trying to steal.
Dean wants the US to return to an era of unprecedented divisiveness and political violence when he did his level best to avoid every last bit of it the first time around. His supporters routinely yell “Chickenhawk” at supporters of George Bush and the war on terror; perhaps this epithet would be more applicable to their own candidate.
UPDATE: Power Line notes that the New York Times may play Conscientious Objector in the Dean media war … or perhaps they also have a bad spine, or none at all.

Stiffing the Poles

Poland has long had my admiration. Before France threw in with the colonies, Polish lovers of freedom allied itself with our Founding Fathers — names like Kosciusko should be as much a part of our national lexicon as Lafayette — and despite being overrun and torn apart for centuries, Poland has always retained a burning love of freedom and self-determination. Earlier this week, Ralph Peters wrote an excellent column about this aspect of Polish history, and the unfortunate treatment they are receiving from the US after giving us the best of their support:

But the Poles never gave up their belief in their country – or in freedom. During our own revolution, our first allies were Polish freedom fighters such as Casimir Pulaski and Tadeusz Kosciusko. (Paris only joined the fight when it looked like we might win. And France intervened to spite Britain, not to help us.)
Throughout the 19th century, Poles fought for freedom wherever the struggle raged, in Latin America, Greece and Italy, and on the Union side in our Civil War. Although their country had been raped by the great powers of Europe, Poles kept her cause alive.

Poland committed ground troops to our effort in Iraq, as well as critical diplomatic support at a time when it may not have been in their best interest, as a new EU member, to stand with us. Jacques Chirac infamously and condescendingly told the Poles, among other Eastern European nations, that they had missed a chance to shut up at the beginning of the year. What have we done to return the favor? Not much, according to Peters:

Their reward? Surely America must recognize such a great contribution from an economically struggling ally – at a time when Polish troops also support peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan and the Balkans? Sorry. Turkey, which stabbed us as deeply in the back as it could on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom, will receive a minimum of $2 billion from Washington … And Poland? Like the Czech Republic, which sent a few medics to the Persian Gulf then withdrew them in panic, Poland will get a standard package of $12 million for NATO-related programs. … Poland did have one request – a humble one, in the great scheme of things. Warsaw asked for $47 million to modernize six used, American-built C-130 transport aircraft and to purchase American-built HMMWV all-terrain vehicles so elite Polish units could better integrate operations with American forces. Much of the money would go right back to U.S. factories and workers.
Our response? We stiffed them.

This is unconscionable. The Poles deserve better from the West in general, who left them under Stalin’s thumb at the end of World War II, and from the US in particular. If this is how we repay our allies, is it any wonder that American foreign policy generates little enthusiasm amongst the democracies? Write your Congressman and Senators to let them know that we have to reward the Poles for their loyalty and support of freedom and liberty.

Pots and Kettles

John Kerry published a statement today that shows both a stunning grasp of the obvious and a remarkable lack of self-analysis:

With a month to go before the New Hampshire primary, John Kerry says voters must choose between Democratic front-runner Howard Dean or a more centrist candidate like himself. The Massachusetts senator said he would fare better than Dean against President Bush in November. … Aides to Kerry note that Dean fares poorly against Bush in head-to-head matchups.

While they’re looking, have aides to Kerry noticed that the difference in Bush’s lead over both Dean and Kerry falls within the margin of error? Neither of them stand a chance against Bush because neither of them are getting any traction on him now, when Bush isn’t even campaigning. Why? Because both men have demonstrated that they will say anything to anybody to get elected. Kerry has spent his entire campaign running against his vote for the war, and Dean’s flip-flops are so common now that DeanWatch has become one of my largest categories on this blog. Unfortunately for the Democrats, Dean is sucking up all of the political oxygen in the primary.

Was The Vatican Al-Qaeda’s Target?

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told reporters that al-Qaeda’s Christmas Eve target was not Los Angeles, but the Vatican:

Terrorists planned to attack the Vatican with a hijacked plane on Christmas Day, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said in a newspaper interview published Saturday. … “A hijacked plane into the Vatican,” Berlusconi is quoted as saying. “An attack from the sky, is that clear? The threat of terrorism is very high in this instant. I passed Christmas Eve in Rome to deal with the situation. Now I feel calm. It will pass.”
He added, “It isn’t fatalism, but the knowledge of having our guard up. If they organized this, they will not pull it off.”

Of course, Islamofascists could consider the Vatican as the center of the Crusader world, but if so, it shows a stubborn defiance of history and common sense. The Vatican’s direct influence on warmaking has declined considerably since the Renaissance, and has been a nonfactor for almost two centuries. In fact, this particular Pope has no taste for confronting terrorism’s evils, as he has made plainly clear over the past two years, despite his participation in freeing Eastern Europe of the scourge of communist totalitarianism. An attack on the Vatican only makes sense if you consider two possible motivations:
1. Its symbolic value to Christendom in general, and to Catholics in particular.
2. The difficulty in defending it, making it a relatively “sure thing” as far as large-scale missions go.
If Berlusconi is correct, it shows that al-Qaeda may be forced to the “low-hanging fruit” options for targets these days. However, since this target would only serve to inflame Europe, bringing them closer to the US and eliminating a voice for appeasement, this may be a further indicator of deliberate misinformation for counter-intelligence purposes. After all, we have now heard that the targets were Los Angeles, Las Vegas, the Vatican, and Tappahannock, VA,or possibly a naval refueler with the same name. If al-Qaeda needed to check for leaks, the easiest way to do that would be to disseminate several false targets to specific people and then see which ones appear in the media and/or get a security response from the West. Berlusconi and others in the US and Europe need to quit divulging intelligence if they want to protect whatever sources they are quoting. (via Instapundit)

LA Times: Applaud the Non-Event

The Los Angeles Times published an editorial today which reminds us that good intelligence and pre-emption can keep terrorist strikes from appearing, and that the lack of hard evidence of a terrorist mission does not mean one did not exist:

Most national security intelligence is elusive, a connecting of dots — intercepted telephone calls, overheard conversations, confessions by people who know fragments of a plan. The result may be an unprovable negative: an event that does not occur.
Thus it was when U.S. officials warned French counterparts about hints that an Air France plane would be used to attack Los Angeles on or around Christmas. The French heeded American requests and canceled six flights, and Los Angeles celebrated a peaceful holiday. Some inconvenience resulted, but how could security personnel have failed to act? The use of commercial airliners as bombs to kill thousands of people on 9/11 demands that credible threats be taken seriously.

Of course it is better to be safe than sorry, but my guess is that we will start to hear a hue and cry that we are chasing after our own shadow rather than real terrorist plots. In fact, our partners the French have already made that insinuation in their handling of the same event (via Power Line):

Bush administration officials expressed frustration that al-Qa’eda operatives might have escaped capture after word leaked, early this week, of American concerns about flights from France to the United States over the Christmas period. One official said Washington had been hoping to keep the US-French negotiations confidential, adding that the hope was that “we would be able to lure some of these people in”.
However, a French interior ministry spokesman said little evidence of a terrorist plot had been found

One possibility that has not yet been mentioned, at least in published accounts, is that the entire exercise was a counter-intelligence mission by al-Qaeda. This possibility has bothered me since Christmas Eve, when the entire event began. It’s no secret that the US has been trying to penetrate al-Qaeda for years, and especially since 9/11. After Saddam’s capture, it’s clear that American intelligence services have adapted to Arab social structures and have been much more successful in gathering and applying information. Facing that new reality, it would make sense for al-Qaeda to develop strategies to uncover American moles within their organization, or at least the weak points within their communications.
How would this be accomplished? The simplest method would be to disseminate information to their organization, with strategic details changed for specific people or groups. If the information generates a specific reaction from Western security services, Osama and his top lieutenants can easily trace back the details that led to the reaction. Details, for example, such as dates, air carriers, or flight numbers.
Now, this can be a good development, because an terrorist organization obsessed with checking its “six” isn’t an organization that can deliver a complicated attack at the same time. However, thanks to the inordinate amount of publicity that the French provided about this investigation and the detailed American response to the media, their intelligence sources are now at extreme risk, and all to come up empty-handed. If indeed this was an al-Qaeda counter-intelligence operation, it was highly successful, and that’s nothing to applaud.

Dean Switches Positions in the Same Day?

The master of flip-flops impresses everyone this week by issuing conflicting statements in the same day:

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean will not pronounce Osama bin Laden guilty before a trial, he said in an interview published Friday. New Hampshire’s Concord Monitor reported that Dean said he would not state his preference on a punishment for bin Laden before the al Qaeda leader was captured and put before a jury.
“I’ve resisted pronouncing a sentence before guilt is found,” Dean said in the interview. “I will have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials.” …
Later, Dean released a statement clarifying, “I share the outrage of all Americans. Osama bin Laden has admitted that he is responsible for killing 3,000 Americans as well as scores of men, women and children around the world. This is the exactly the kind of case that the death penalty is meant for.[“]

Was there a trial today that I missed? Did Osama hire a lawyer? No, Dean’s campaign just went into damage control after its tone-deaf candidate managed to shoot himself in the foot that was stuck solidly within his mouth. Left unanswered is Dean’s difference between his second Osama position of the day and his prior assertion that Osama should be tried by the World Court at the Hague, which has no death penalty. How does he explain that? Perhaps Dean’s changed his mind — again — and discovered that he now will insist that Osama be tried in the US. Just like the vast majority of Americans, as I’m sure his campaign has also discovered after his disastrous interview on Hardball earlier this month.
Can someone remind me why this guy is running away with the Democratic nomination? Oh, yeah, that’s right … it’s because he’s so truthful and consistent. (via Blogs for Bush)
UPDATE: Power Line has two excellent posts on this subject, matching Dean’s different positions of the day. Plus, Hindrocket notes that Dean has picked up the presitigious Pravda endorsement. Really.

US Among International Donors to Iran Aid

Iran suffered a devastating earthquake yesterday, and the death toll is expected to rise above 10,000:

Most of the historic Iranian city of Bam was destroyed in an early morning earthquake Friday, and government sources said more than 20,000 people were killed.
Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency put the death toll at 5,000-6,000, and officials said they were worried that the number could climb. News service reports quoted government officials as saying more than 20,000 died.

Several blogs have demanded US involvement in emergency aid to Iran in order to support the pro-US younger generation in Iran as well as for humanitarian reasons. Hugh Hewitt and Blog Iran are two amongst many who point out that our assistance will underscore our insistence that we are at war with terrorists and not Muslims. I doubt that our assistance will convince anyone who already thinks that we are at war with Muslims, just like our interventions on Muslims’ behalf in the Balkans and in Somalia failed to impress them before. I do think that we need to give as much assistance as possible for humanitarian reasons alone, and that it will help support Iranians who want better relations with the US. Other than that, don’t expect much.

Why the Dominoes Fall

The Washington Post explains in more detail why the capture of Saddam Hussein has started to cripple the insurgency, and how American strategy had already impacted the insurgency even before that:

Senior U.S. officers said they were surprised to discover — clue by clue over six months — that the upper and middle ranks of the resistance were filled by members of five extended families from a few villages within a 12-mile radius of the volatile city of Tikrit along the Tigris River. Top operatives drawn from these families organized the resistance network, dispatching information to individual cells and supervising financial channels, the officers said. They also protected Hussein and passed information to and from the former president while he was on the run.
At the heart of this tightly woven network is Auja, Hussein’s birthplace, which U.S. commanders say is the intelligence and communications hub of the insurgency. The village is where many of the former president’s key confidants have their most lavish homes and their favorite wives.
When U.S. forces sealed off Auja in late October, they separated the leaders of the insurgency from their guerrilla forces, dealing the anti-occupation campaign a major blow, said Lt. Col. Steve Russell of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, which is responsible for the Tikrit area.

While it is true that American intelligence knew little about the insurgency at the time of the Baghdad collapse, it is also true that the American military and intelligence services learn quickly and adapt rapidly — one of the historical strengths of the US armed forces. Read the entire article.