Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Modest Proposal to Adjust the Principles of War (SWJ Blog)

A Modest Proposal to Adjust the Principles of War (SWJ Blog): "Lieutenant"Colonel Gian P. Gentile

I propose a consideration to adjust the Principles of War as accepted by the American military since J.F.C. Fuller first came out with them in the early 1920s and the American Army’s use of them in the majority of its major doctrinal manuals. I do not propose radically new principles of war like Lieutenant Commander Christopher Van Avery did in a recent summer Armed Forces Journal article. His proposal of very different Principles seemed too “new-ageish” for me and in my mind wrongly assumed that the information revolution of the 1990s produced a concomitant revolution in military affairs (a still debated and contested notion by scholars). Too, with regard to Avery, I do not accept his historical premise of now as the time to radically adjust the Principles of War because of the so called recent RMA; one could easily make the argument that we should have produced new Principles of War shortly after August 1945 and the advent of atomic war and Bernard Brodie’s classic The Absolute Weapon.

So my recommendation is much less radical than Avery’s, more conservative and still generally accepting of the classic list that Fuller gave us shortly after World War I. But I also want to embrace the evolution of our thinking on war and embrace certain changes of approach and emphasis over the last five years; specifically the war on terror and new doctrinal writings within the American Army and Marine Corps on counterinsurgency (COIN). I also premise my proposal on the notion that the Army’s new COIN doctrine has become the Army’s defacto operational doctrine.

And finally we should make things challenging in such a proposal; that we limit ourselves to 9 Principles since that was the original number that Fuller gave us. This limit is more than formulaic; its intent is to force us to make hard choices over the Principles since in the months and years ahead we will be making hard choices about the structure of the American Army and the types of wars we think we will be fighting.

With that in mind, here are my proposed changes with brief explanations next to the specific Principles that I believe we should consider changing.

1. Mass (no change)

2, Surprise (no change)

3. Simplicity (no change)

4. Economy of Force (no change)

5. Unity of Command (no change)

6. Objective (no change)

7. Offensive (no change)

8. Security; Here I propose replacing the Principle of “Security” with a new Principle, “Protection of the People.” Since so much of our operations today are COIN based and we know as our doctrine tells us that through protecting the people our own security will emerge out of that protection, then it seems to me that we no longer need Security as a Principle of War because if we protect the people accordingly security will come in due course.

9. Maneuver; I propose replacing this Principle of War with “Tactical Success Guarantees Nothing.” Obviously this new Principle is taken directly from the Paradoxes of the new COIN manual, FM 3-24. Since in modern war as we experience it today and in the future our soldiers all need to be “strategic corporals” then we should indoctrinate our Army to understand that tactics in and of themselves mean nothing as the paradox tells us. Maneuver as a Principle in the original list had to do primarily with the maneuvering of military forces in the field at the tactical and operational levels of war. Since one of the bedrocks of “maneuver” was tactics, and since the COIN paradox tells us that tactics in and of themselves are not that important unless they are linked to other lines of operations and higher objectives then replacing Maneuver with that paradox eliminates deadwood, so to speak, from the original Principles list.

So there it is; a modest proposal to adjust the Principles of War by replacing two from the original list with two derived from our more recent experience with war and what we might expect in the future.

Lt. Col. Gian Gentile, an active Army lieutenant colonel, commanded an armored reconnaissance squadron in west Baghdad in 2006. The views in this article are his own and not necessarily those of the Department of Defense.

S.C. corporal killed in Afghanistan

The State | 12/15/2007 | S.C. corporal killed in Afghanistan: "FORT"MILL — Only death comes in uniform after dark.

It came after 9 p.m. Wednesday. Dianne Massey opened her Fort Mill front door to an Army beret. She screamed, “No, not Josh!”

But it was.

Her son, Cpl. Joshua Blaney, 25, had been killed in eastern Afghanistan earlier that day. A bomb blew up the vehicle he was riding in, Army officials confirmed Friday. Blaney was in the lead truck in a convoy.

Massey learned her son was dead as she stood a few feet from his Purple Heart and Army Commendation Medal. Blaney somehow had previously survived, though with leg shrapnel and scars, a convoy bomb in Iraq on an earlier tour. He was in the lead truck that day, too.

“I immediately remembered his fifth birthday party, the GI Joe cake,” Massey said Friday. “He would pitch a tent and play Army with his uncle who was in the Special Forces. They would eat MREs (Meals Ready to Eat.) There was the time at Wal-Mart. He was 8, or 9. We walked out, and he had this bulge in his pocket. I asked him, ‘Josh, what’s in the pocket?’ Out comes the GI Joe. I marched him right inside and made him give it back.”

A paratrooper with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Airborne, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Blaney was based at Forward Operating Base Curry in Afghanistan, said Maj. Nathan Banks, an Army spokesman. Another soldier, Michael Gabel of Louisiana, died when the vehicle ran over the bomb, Banks said.

Blaney grew up in Matthews, N.C., and graduated from Butler High School in 2002. After enlisting, he lived the past five-plus years in Italy at Camp Ederle when not deployed. He was five months into his second tour in Afghanistan after the Iraq deployment and recently had signed re-enlistment papers for two more years.

“He told me he would make a career out of it,” Massey said.

Blaney was part of the paratrooper drop into northern Iraq in 2003 that was the first of its kind for the Army since Vietnam, his mother said. Since Blaney’s death, e-mails have poured in to family members from his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan, calling him a top-notch paratrooper and friend.

Other e-mails described him as compassionate to his fellow soldiers and a mentor to younger men.

“A leader,” said his sister, Carley.

Blaney was divorced and had no children. He’s Massey’s middle child. He joined the Army after his mother and stepfather, Air Force veteran Eric Massey of Fort Mill, urged Blaney to try college. The Masseys then pushed the Air Force.

“He told me the Army would give him the discipline he needed, the focus he needed to figure out what he wanted to do with his life,” Massey said.

Blaney’s sister said her brother was a humble, gracious man who rarely talked about what he had seen or done in the wars.

Dianne Massey’s sister, Amy, whose husband is that Special Forces uncle that Blaney played “Army” with all the time, said, “Josh went in the Army a boy, and he came out a man.”

Blaney’s grandfather, Sid Belk, is an 84-year-old World War II Army Air Corps veteran.

“I know what my grandson was doing,” he said. “He was a fine soldier. Brave. I am proud of him.”

Red State Update with Jackie Broyles and Dunlap - Hillary V. Obama

Welcome To Red State Update with Jackie Broyles and Dunlap

Army cancels Robotic FX contract - Daily Business Update - The Boston Globe

Army cancels Robotic FX contract - Daily Business Update - The Boston Globe: "The Army has canceled a $280 million contract with a Chicago-area robot maker that is being sued by iRobot Corp. of Burlington.

Robotic FX Inc. of Alsip, Ill., in September won the contract to supply up to 3,000 robots for use by bomb-disposal soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, iRobot was suing Robotic FXcq in federal courts in Massachusetts and Alabama. The suits alleged the Robotic FX robots featured patented technologies and trade secrets belonging to iRobot.

Joanne Byrd, the Army administrator overseeing the contract, said in October that she was putting the deal on hold pending further investigation.

On Friday, Byrd said ‘‘The Robotic FX contract is no longer in existence.’’ She cited ‘‘peripheral complications’’ as the reason for the cancellation, but offered no further details.

Officials of Robotic FX could not be reached for comment, and iRobot officials said they had no additional information about the government’s decision. (By Hiawatha Bray, Globe staff)

[bth: iRobot essentially bankrupted this company. How many troops have died or been wounded during the intervening half year?]

Recap of the Last Iowa Dem Debate

Welcome To Red State Update with Jackie Broyles and Dunlap

This is what victory looks like | The Australian

This is what victory looks like | The Australian: "A LITTLE after 2am, in the small town of ad-Dawr, south of Tikrit, Captain Ahmed of the Iraqi army is leading his troops on one of their regular arrest raids.

Half a dozen men from one particular house are dragged out, hands bound with plastic flexi-cuffs, and lined up. But the man they'd come for isn't there.
"Listen, donkey-f..ker,", says Ahmed, addressing the head of the household, "I know your eldest son is with the terrorists because he keeps sniping at my men."

Pointing his Kalashnikov at the abject row of detainees, he continues: "And if you don't bring him down to the JSC (joint staff college), I'll be back here tomorrow night and I'll shoot every last one of you."

The US officer relating this story gives a wry smile. "And guess what? The next day the old man arrives at the JSC with his son two steps behind." Having met Ahmed, I wasn't surprised. Young, tough, with a chiselled physique from hours of pumping iron at the American gym, he had spent the past three years happily "killing bad guys", he tells me. He'd had many close calls, as his battered, bomb-damaged Humvee shows. A threat from Ahmed is entirely believable.

The American officer, part of the effort to mentor and train the Iraqi army, admits there were some problems with Ahmed's methods but "at least he's someone we can work with". In fact, US troops in this area have been fired on by both the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police, the outgoing commander for ad-Dawr tells me, although it is the police, by a long way, that worry him the most.

I went along to the Americans' weekly meeting with the local police chief, a harassed-looking figure in a brown suit with a bad comb-over, nicotine-stained fingers and a tremor in his right hand.

Over the usual small glasses of hot, sweet tea, I ask how many of his men he can't trust; how many are loyal to the insurgents?

After a lot of hedging about the odd fox hiding in every sturdy orchard, he gives a figure. "Three out of every 10 may be helping the terrorists," he says, before hastily explaining that most of those are doing so out of fear rather than conviction. A US official at the meeting passes me a note: "You will never get an honest answer on this issue," the note says. "It's a lot more than that."

And yet, for the Americans, things are going rather well in this part of Iraq. Ad-Dawr is the Sunni heartland: it's where Saddam Hussein was pulled out of his spider-hole. Although most violence in Iraq is sectarian, Shi'ite murdering Sunni and vice versa, most violence against the Americans has come from Sunni insurgents. It is here, in the Sunni heartland, that the Americans must win if they are to leave Iraq with honour.

After four years of relentless optimism from the coalition, "good news" from Iraq tends to invite scepticism. But US commanders are convinced that things are finally turning around in the Sunni areas that were once their biggest problem.

In a bad month, US forces used to suffer about 180 attacks a day across Iraq. It is now a little more than 100 attacks a day, a US officer tells me, adding that roadside bombs in his area of operations, around Tikrit, have fallen by one-third or so since the summer. This is progress.

It is happening because of the "tribal awakening". Sunni tribal sheikhs are contracted by the coalition to keep the peace. If there are bomb attacks and shootings on their land, they know the payments will stop. "We're bribing them," a US Army officer tells me. "But it's working."

Much of the money is handed over in payments for a local security force: official title, concerned local citizens or CLCs. Out on patrol with the Americans, we regularly come across this Iraqi version of Neighbourhood Watch. Armed with Kalashnikovs, setting up makeshift checkpoints, wearing ski-masks, usually without any kind of uniform, they look for all the world like insurgents.

At one time, no doubt, some had been, but the Americans accept that. Co-opting individuals, or even whole groups, is part of the strategy. The Iraqi security forces tend to have family or tribal ties with many in the resistance. Everyone knows everyone. Ahmed, for instance, probably wants to persuade the old man's insurgent son to change sides rather than automatically send him to prison.

The Americans have finally been able to exploit the tensions between the mainly foreign Wahhabi fanatics of al-Qa'ida in Iraq and the more moderate Sunni population.

As a measure of the success of this approach, just after we left there was a day-long gunbattle that involved neither the coalition nor Iraqi forces: it was between a Sunni resistance group and al-Qa'ida.

Sunnis, especially in Baghdad, have also been coming round to the view that the coalition may be their best chance of avoiding genocide at the hands of Shia death squads. Above all, say US commanders, ordinary Sunnis are sick of the war and are turning against those who remain in the insurgency.

In most places we go to in and around ad-Dawr, US troops are still greeted with shrugs when they ask about insurgent activity. But not always. Just outside town, they stop at a clay and mud hut. Barefoot children play amid goats and chickens. The man of the house comes out and - much to the Americans' surprise - says he knows where to find the kingpin organising bomb attacks along the main road.

The man nervously smooths his beard. No one is in any doubt that he is putting his life on the line. He tells us he has a son in the CLCs, an uncle who has been kidnapped by the insurgents; he is from a different tribe to the insurgent leader. Even with all that, I ask him, why is he prepared to run this huge risk. "For my children," he says simply.

The Americans leave, happy with their valuable new intelligence. As their column reaches the crest of a hill, a white Volvo comes into sight, travelling fast. The gunner on our Humvee fires a warning shot with the 50mm machinegun, a terrifyingly loud sound. The car keeps coming. The gunner fires a second shot into the engine. The car fish-tails to the side of the road. Two middle-aged men get out, hands above their heads, the red dots of laser sights dancing on their chests.

"I am sorry, very, very sorry," says one of the men over and over again, explaining that he had been dashing to hospital, where his sister had just been taken.

The sergeant in charge of our vehicle tells the top-gunner, "You waited too long. If that had been a vee-bed (car bomb), they'd be pickin' our teeth up in Baghdad right now. I'd 'ave lit 'em up. Next time, you wax 'em."

The risk to the coalition from car bombs is real but such incidents show why there will always be recruits for the insurgency. And it only takes a few to cause a lot of trouble. The following afternoon the patrol is out in town. It is a nice day. There is some graffiti on the walls - "Beware of traitors. Death to infidels. US out" - but small children are playing in the street, the sun is shining, birds are singing.

It is the kind of quiet, peaceful scene that, if encountered in a Hollywood movie, would indicate something bad was about to happen. Sure enough, there is a loud crack: a sniper. A soldier standing at the front right corner of the Humvee crumples without uttering a sound. (He has been shot through the leg and survives.) Another crack and the vehicle's tyre deflates. For some of the young soldiers on the patrol, just 18 or 19 years old, it is their first time under fire. One or two panic.

But the sergeants work like clockwork, bringing the medic up, sweeping up and down the road for the single sniper, who is probably long gone. Their efficiency is born of long experience. It is the third deployment to Iraq for all the NCOs in the platoon, one tells me later, and at the end of this 15 months all but one will be leaving the army. Their wives won't put up with another long tour.

While units like the 101st Airborne are still getting enough raw young recruits, the junior officers and experienced NCOs are haemorrhaging away. More than the loudly ticking political clock in Washington, it is the pressures on the army that will force the coalition to draw down in Iraq, whatever the conditions on the ground.

The Americans have always found the conflict in Iraq frustratingly mercurial: first it was looting and general anarchy; then Baathist dead-enders; then al-Qa'ida; then a nationalist Sunni resistance; then a Shia uprising; now it is a sectarian near-civil war, Iranian-backed militias and a simmering intra-Shia conflict. But the surge in Baghdad does seem to be dampening down the sectarian killing, and the gains in the Sunni areas, while not irreversible, are real.

For the first time in a long time, the coalition can credibly claim that things are moving in the right direction. The Sunni vigilantes, the divided police force and Rambo-style Iraqi army officers, along with the kidnapping, the crime and the tribal fighting: this is what victory looks like in Iraq. Next year, the Americans will declare it so and some will start to go home
.

The Spectator

Al-Qa'ida 'plot' to kill Musharraf

Al-Qa'ida 'plot' to kill Musharraf | The Australian: "INTELLIGENCE"authorities in Karachi yesterday claimed to have uncovered an al-Qa'ida plot to blow up Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf as the leader granted himself sweeping new powers over Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

The alleged plot was disclosed only hours before the state of emergency imposed by Mr Musharraf last month was due to be lifted.

It also coincided with the publication of a poll conducted by US Republican Party researchers that underlined the extent of Mr Musharraf's unpopularity ahead of next month's general election.

The poll, by the International Republican Institute and reported in The New York Times, suggests 67 per cent of Pakistanis want Mr Musharraf to resign immediately and 70 per cent say that his Government does not deserve re-election.

It also found that Washington and London's hopes for a power-sharing alliance between Mr Musharraf and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto is opposed by 60 per cent of Pakistanis.

The poll's main findings confirm assessments attributed to Pakistan's intelligence agencies that while the branch of the Pakistan Muslim League aligned with Mr Musharraf may emerge as the largest single party in the election, Ms Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and Nawaz Sharif's own branch of the PML will do well, with hardline religious parties holding the balance of power.

Yesterday, Mr Musharraf passed a law granting himself ultimate control over thecountry's National Command Authority, which is in charge of all aspects of the country's nuclear arsenal and use of its nuclear technology.

The assassination plot, it was claimed, was to blow up an entire bridge on the city's Drig Road that would be used by Mr Musharraf on a visit to Karachi.

Pakistani news agencies quoted officials as saying the plot involved a fall-back plan for two follow-up attacks in case the first attempt to kill Mr Musharraf failed.

They said interrogation of suspects involved in the alleged plot had revealed plans for attacks on foreign diplomatic missions, and last night security on these and other strategic buildings across Pakistan was significantly increased.

Mr Musharraf, 64, has survived a series of attempts on his life since he seized power in 1999, the last being in July when an anti-aircraft gun was fired at his aircraft as it took off from Rawalpindi.

Earlier yesterday, al-Qa'ida- and Taliban-linked suicide bombers were blamed for two separate attacks on a military checkpoint at the army garrison in Quetta, capital of the troubled province of Balochistan, which left at least 10 soldiers dead and more than 22 wounded.

The suicide attacks, the latest in a series launched by militants against targets across Pakistan, came amid new claims by a senior Taliban official captured in Afghanistan that the movement's secretive leader, Mullah Omar, is living in Quetta under the protection of Islamabad's top spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI.

The claims have been strenuously rebutted by Pakistani officials.

Ms Bhutto has renewed her charge that Mr Musharraf is preparing to rig the election. The former prime minister who, according to the Republican Institute poll, has the support of 30 per cent of Pakistan's voters as against 25 per cent for Mr Sharif, warned that if there was rigging there "could be mass protests similar to those seen in the Ukraine after the elections there."
 
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The Denver Post - War in Iraq falls off media radar

The Denver Post - War in Iraq falls off media radar:... "In"the first quarter of 2007, coverage of Iraq made up 22 percent of all news, according to Mark Jurkowitz of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. In the second quarter of 2007, that number fell to 16 percent.

Jurkowitz, a former media writer at the Boston Globe, said that if you take the week after Petraeus' visit to Congress, through last Friday, "the Iraq policy debate is down to 3 percent" of the total news hole.

Looking back on 2007, several domestic news events had relatively brief spikes that far outdistanced discussion of Iraq in terms of coverage. The Virginia Tech massacre, the summer Minneapolis bridge collapse, the Don Imus saga, the TB traveler and the recent mall and church shootings all drew sustained coverage.

PEJ counts three elements of the Iraq coverage — the policy debate, events in Iraq and veterans or homefront stories. All are on a downward trajectory in terms of the amount of coverage.

Coverage of campaign '08, by contrast, started big and has stayed big, continuing with a staggering intensity. (The Democrats have gotten more coverage than the Republicans by a significant margin, and Hillary Clinton is the most covered candidate of all.)

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press similarly found the percentage of respondents who said they follow news about Iraq very closely dropped from about 40 percent in late 2006-early 2007 to about 30 percent in the second half of 2007. Pew reported in November that, "News about the Iraq war does not dominate the public's consciousness nearly as much as it did last winter. Currently, just 16 percent of Americans name the Iraq war as the news story that first comes to mind when asked what has been in the news lately." More generally, Pew found, public interest in news about the situation in Iraq is now less than it was earlier this year or in 2006.

It may not be an overstatement to say that Iraq war coverage is declining so fast that some viewers may forget we're at war by the end of the year. According to the Tyndall Report, for the first 37 weeks of 2007 (January-September) when Gen. Petraeus concluded his testimony on Capitol Hill, the total number of minutes the three network nightly newscasts devoted to Iraq was 1,659.

In the subsequent 12 weeks of 2007 (September-December), the three-network total of minutes devoted to Iraq coverage was 197.

While Iraq coverage plunged, the amount of network evening news coverage devoted to campaign '08 stayed relatively even, at 448 and 400 minutes.

Out of sight, out of mind?

While we're throwing numbers around, here's one more statistic. The number of U.S. fatalities in Iraq confirmed by the Department of Defense since 2003's invasion stands at 3,888.

[bth: out of sight out of mind.]
 
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Iraqi oil exceeds pre-war output

BBC NEWS | Business | Iraqi oil exceeds pre-war output: "Iraqi"oil production is above the levels seen before the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The IEA said Iraqi crude production is now running at 2.3 million barrels per day, compared with 1.9 million barrels at the start of this year.

It puts the rise down to the improving security situation in Iraq, especially in the north of the country.

But the IEA warned that attacks on Iraqi oil facilities remain a threat.

In southern Iraq, more than 85% of the residents of Basra believe British troops have had a negative effect on the Iraqi province since 2003, according to a BBC poll.

The survey for BBC Newsnight of nearly 1,000 people also suggests that 56% believe their presence has increased the overall level of militia violence. ...
 
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Hezbollah hero pays for war with Israel

Hezbollah hero pays for war with Israel | The Australian: "HEZBOLLAH"leader Hassan Nasrallah, perhaps the most admired figure in the Arab world, has been stripped by Iran of his control of the Lebanese organisation's military wing, according to a report yesterday in Asharq Alawsat, an Arabic-language newspaper published in London.

A similar report, in the Tel Aviv daily Ma'ariv, attributed the move to his role in involving Hezbollah last year in a war against Israel.

The ability of Hezbollah to stand up to Israel despite air and ground attacks had won Mr Nasrallah plaudits from populations throughout the Middle East. However, according to Western sources cited by Ma'ariv, Tehran's unhappiness with Mr Nasrallah stems from the war itself, although no details were given.

The war exposed the strategic force Iran had built up in southern Lebanon as a deterrent against an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, not for a local, cross-border clash.

In the first hour of the war, Israeli planes destroyed the bulk of the long-range rockets supplied by Iran to Hezbollah capable of striking Tel Aviv and other targets deep inside Israel.

The extent to which Iran, and also Syria, had armed Hezbollah became evident during the war when 4000 rockets were fired into Israel. About 10,000 more remained in Hezbollah's arsenals at war's end.

The war not only revealed the extent of Iran's strategic presence in Lebanon but also diminished its effectiveness.

About 40 Israeli civilians were killed by the rockets and 300,000 sought shelter away from the border area but the psychological and physical effect of the rocketing was not decisive and may have inured Israel against similar attacks in the future.

Mr Nasrallah touched off the war by ordering a raid into Israel to abduct members of an Israeli border patrol who could be traded for prisoners in Israeli hands. Eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two were captured.

The ensuing Israeli reaction devastated much of southern Lebanon and a Hezbollah-controlled neighbourhood in Beirut. Mr Nasrallah said after the war that he would not have ordered the raid had he known what the Israeli reaction would be.

Asharq Alawsat said Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered Mr Nasrallah to relinquish control of Hezbollah's military wing to his deputy, Sheikh Naim Qasim, who becomes the Ayatollah's personal representative in Lebanon.

Mr Nasrallah remains Hezbollah's secretary-general. The newspaper, citing sources in Iran's Revolutionary Guards, said his demotion stemmed from differences of opinion between him and Sheikh Qasim over restructuring Hezbollah's military wing.

Hezbollah termed the reports "utterly unfounded".

Tehran reportedly funds Hezbollah with $US400 million ($456 million) a year, but has provided $US1.5 billion to compensate for war losses.

Meanwhile, Tel Aviv daily Haaretz reported yesterday that straw companies set up by Western intelligence bodies had succeeded in supplying Iran's nuclear program with defective equipment that has caused centrifuges being used to enrich uranium to collapse or explode

YouTube - Neil Diamond - I Am...I Said (Live 1976)

YouTube - Neil Diamond - I Am...I Said (Live 1976): ""

US troops to be on-call in Basra

US troops to be on-call in Basra - Telegraph: "American"troops may have to be sent to Basra once British force levels are halved next year, the Army's senior general in the region has conceded for the first time.

At a ceremony on Sunday, Iraq's security forces are to assume overall command of Basra for the first time since Saddam Hussein was deposed in 2003.

The move, known in military jargon as "going PIC", which stands for Provincial Iraqi Control, paves the way for UK troop numbers in Iraq's second city to fall to 2,500 by the spring.

Maj Gen Graham Binns, the commanding officer of forces in south-east Iraq, said that the Iraqi army had been rated capable of imposing order on the city without back-up from UK forces stationed at Basra air station and in Kuwait.

But a severe bout of violence would trigger a call for the fire-power of allies in the US-led coalition.

"We are a coalition and if additional troops are required, they could come from within our reserve or from within the coalition," Gen Binns said.

"I wouldn't have recommended bringing down troop numbers to 2,500 if I thought that would happen but you have to lean into this to make progress."

His comments follow warnings from US officials that a British withdrawal would leave US forces having to intervene in the south, while heavily committed elsewhere in Iraq.

In August, the retired US general, Jack Keane, said: "From a military perspective I know what the commanders are trying to avoid is having to send reinforcements to the south from forces that are needed in the central part of Iraq. That situation could arise if the situation gets worse in Basra, if and when British troops leave."

The Army has already adopted its post-PIC posture. Preparations for an Iraqi operation early next month to confront Basra's so-called "irreconcilables" - locals who pose the greatest threat to security - are under way with the UK lined up to provide surveillance, intelligence and aerial support
.

Basra is the ninth of Iraq's 18 provinces to resume responsibility for its own security but the significance of the switch goes beyond symbolism. Key sections of Route Tampa, the main military supply route from Kuwait, run through the province.

The road as well as Basra's borders with Iran and Kuwait will continue to be secured with British fire-power. A battle group, led by the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, confronts the daily dangers of patrols in the insurgent-rich region.

Since arriving last month, its Mastiff armoured personnel carriers have hit seven roadside bombs. "We've got an area the size of the North West of England to protect with 550 men," said Lt Col Gary Deakin. "We'll be maintaining security in a patch that includes the combat supply route, Iraq's only deep-water port and the borders. It's our area and we'll do what we can to maintain security in it."

Maj Tom Perkins, the commander of a 1st Scots detachment in the battle group, said: "There are elements out to take advantage of what might be perceived as a vacuum after the PIC."

[bth: note the extreme contradictions between political statements and those of military commanders required to respond to an overextended situation.]
 
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Friday, December 14, 2007

'Freed terrorists behind U.N. bomb'

'Freed terrorists behind U.N. bomb' - CNN.com: "ALGIERS Algeria (AP) -- Two convicted terrorists who had been freed in an amnesty carried out the suicide bombings at U.N. and government buildings that killed 37 people, an Algerian security official has said

Rescuers in the shaken city Thursday were still extracting the living and the dead from the crumpled remains of U.N. offices in Algiers that were bombed by al-Qaeda's self-styled North African affiliate.

Victims caught in Tuesday's twin truck bombings, which happened 10 minutes apart, included U.N. staff from around the world, police officers and law students.

One of the bombers was a 64-year-old man in the advanced stages of cancer, while the other was a 32-year-old from a poor suburb that has produced many Islamic militants, the security official said Thursday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. ...

The Dream Is Dead - New York Times

The Dream Is Dead - New York Times: "The man crowned by Tommy Franks as “the dumbest [expletive] guy on the planet” just made the dumbest [expletive] speech on the planet.

Doug Feith, the former Rummy gofer who drove the neocon plan to get us into Iraq, and then dawdled without a plan as Iraq crashed into chaos, was the headliner at a reunion meeting of the wooly-headed hawks Monday night at the American Enterprise Institute.

The room was packed as the former No. 3 at the Pentagon, previewing his upcoming book, “War and Decision,” conceded that the case could be made that “mistakes were made.” His former boss, Paul Wolfowitz, and the former Pentagon adviser Richard Perle sat supportively in the front row.

But he wasn’t self-flagellating. He was simply trying to put an egghead gloss on his Humpty Dumpty mishegoss.

“At the end of the day, here we are, and as of now there’s a reasonable chance that the country is going to remain united,” he said. Not quite the original boast of democracy cascading through the Middle East.

Feith also inanely noted that his personal view was that his de-Baathification policy — which created a huge, angry pool of unemployed men that fueled the insurgency — “was not basically a big error. It’s been criticized very severely. I think there actually was a lot of good thought that went into the de-Baathification policy.” It just spiralled out of hand, he said. Mistakes were made.

He thinks everything would have been fine if America had not lingered so long in Iraq. If only Paul Bremer and the generals had just turned Iraq over to the slippery con man Feith wanted to put in charge, Ahmad Chalabi.

Asked about getting tough with Iran and Syria, Feith offered this incandescent insight: “As we all know, the president said he’s The Decider. That actually is quite a profound point. The president is The Decider and the main thing he decides about is risk.”

He noted that in battles through American history, “the military fights better over time.” This from a guy who sent our military into Iraq without the right armor, the right force numbers or the right counterinsurgency training.

“A strategic alliance of the ousted Baathists and foreign jihadists was something that our intelligence community did not anticipate,” he said, continuing to spread the blame.

But the intelligence community didn’t miss it. The neocons tried to scrub out that sort of analysis, knowing it would make the war harder to sell.

Classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council warned that rogue elements of Saddam’s government could hook up with existing terrorist groups to wage guerrilla warfare.

In “Fiasco,” Tom Ricks wrote that Feith’s Pentagon office was dubbed the “black hole” of policy by generals watching him drop the ball.

“People working for Feith complained that he would spend hours tweaking their memos, carefully mulling minor points of grammar,” Ricks wrote. “A Joint Staff officer recalled angrily that at one point troops sat on a runway for hours, waiting to leave the United States on a mission, while he quibbled about commas in the deployment order.”

Jay Garner, America’s first viceroy in Iraq, deemed him “incredibly dangerous” and said his “electrons aren’t connected.”

Feith’s disdain for diplomacy and his credo that weakness invites aggression were shaped, Ricks reported, by personal history: “Like Wolfowitz, Feith came from a family devastated by the Holocaust. His father lost both parents, three brothers, and four sisters to the Nazis.”

Feith told Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker that “My family got wiped out by Hitler, and ... all this stuff about working things out — well, talking to Hitler to resolve the problem didn’t make any sense to me. The kind of people who put bumper stickers on their car that declare that ‘War is not the answer,’ are they making a serious comment? What’s the answer to Pearl Harbor? What’s the answer to the Holocaust?”

What’s the answer to bin Laden? According to Feith, it was an attack on an unrelated dictator. He oversaw the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, whose mission was to amp up links between Saddam and Al Qaeda.

It defies reason, but there are still some who think the chuckleheads who orchestrated the Iraq misadventure have wisdom to impart.

The Pentagon neocons dumped Condi Rice out of the loop. Yet, according to Newsweek’s Mike Isikoff, Condi has now offered Wolfie a job. It wasn’t enough that he trashed Iraq and the World Bank. (He’s still larking around town with Shaha, the sweetheart he gave the sweetheart deal to.)

Condi wants Wolfie to advise her on nuclear proliferation and W.M.D. as part of a State Department panel that has access to highly classified intelligence.

Once you’ve helped distort W.M.D. intelligence to trick the country into war, shouldn’t you be banned for life from ever having another top-level government post concerning W.M.D.?

Think-A-Move, Ltd.

Think-A-Move, Ltd.

Think-A-Move receives Army contract

Crain's Cleveland Business: Think-A-Move receives Army contract: "Think -A-Move Ltd., a Beachwood company that develops device control and communications systems, said it has received a $340,000 contract from the U.S. Army to develop a field-deployable prototype of its hands-free system for controlling a military robot.

Under the contract, issued by the Army’s Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, Think-A-Move will develop what’s known as an iRobot PackBot with speech commands.

The Army uses military robots for Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detection and surveillance in Iraq and Afghanistan. Think-A-Move says more than 1,000 robots have been deployed, mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Currently, no systems use speech commands to control military robots because of their inability to work well in noisy environments,” according to a statement from the company. “Think-A-Move addresses this problem through its algorithms for ambient noise cancellation, enabling a soldier to effectively use speech commands for robot control.”

Soldiers at present control military robots by using joysticks connected to personal computers or through video game controllers. These methods “have several drawbacks, including limiting the soldier’s situational awareness of his environment,” according to Think-A-Move. “In addition, a soldier does not have his hands free to hold a weapon, if necessary, and also requires a security detail to guard him.”

Think-A-Move’s technology would help overcome these limitations on using military robots and increase the effectiveness of the soldiers operating them, the company said.

Think-A-Move previously was awarded Army contracts totaling more than $800,000 to demonstrate the feasibility of the technology.

Jim Harris, president of Think-A-Move, said the new Army contract “demonstrates the value the Army places on developing a hands-free and heads-up control system for military robots. Think-A-Move’s system provides the robot operator with increased situational awareness and potentially decreases the size of the security detail required to guard the operator.”

Mr. Harris said Think-A-Move anticipates work under the new contract will be completed by September 2008

The Economics of Road-Side Bombs - Portfolio.com

Economics Blog - Odd Numbers by Zubin Jelveh: The Economics of Road-Side Bombs - Portfolio.com: "Imagine a product which becomes more popular as it gets more expensive.

I'll give you a couple of seconds.

If you can't think of one, that's ok. Economists have documented only a few examples of such goods (called Giffen goods after the British statistician Robert Giffen).

Robert Jensen and Nolan Miller, both of Harvard, showed us in July how even as the price of rice was going up, poor Chinese bought more of it.

The reason?

People need a certain amount of calories to survive--let's say 1600 per day. You can either get that by consuming rice and perhaps some vegetables alone, or by eating rice, vegetables and a few bites of meat.

But meat is expensive. As the price of rice goes up, these poor Chinese can no longer afford the luxury of cooking meat, yet they still need to get to their 1600 calories. So they eat rice instead, which is still relatively cheap compared to meat. Voila!: Giffen behaviour in action.
It's indeed human behavior which makes a product a Giffen good, not anything intrinsic about the product itself. And Giffen behavior typically comes about on the margins of human existence with famine being one such example.

Another one -- the use of road-side bombs in Iraq -- is brought to our attention from a unique source: college senior Matthew Hanson. (But Hanson is not your typical college senior. According to this profile, he's already presented a paper at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Improvised explosive devices have killed over 1,600 U.S. troops in Iraq, accounting for about 45 percent of all U.S. deaths. Meanwhile, the military has poured over $10 billion into counter I.E.D. measures including an agency created for the sole purpose of stopping road-side bombs. (As with almost everything else associated with the Iraq war, the military's efforts here have come under plenty of criticism.)

But Hanson argues that the counter-IED efforts may actually be effective, and in order to see it you have to view IED attacks as Giffen goods.

The key point here is to see how conventional attacks are affected when the cost of wounding a soldier goes up. Similar to the Chinese case mentioned above, if there is a limit to how much insurgents can spend on attacks (i.e. they have a budget) and road-side bombings are cheaper than conventional attacks, then the number of conventional attacks should go down as road-side bombings attacks get more expensive.

Think of it as insurgents eating more rice (road-side bombs) and less meat (conventional attacks) even as rice (road-side bombs) gets more expensive because it's relatively cheaper to meat (conventional attacks).

To start, Hanson assigns a "price" to IED attacks based on the number of attacks needed to cause the same amount of damage. Here is a graph from Hanson's paper showing that road-side bombs do in fact increase with a decrease in the percentage of road-side bombings that are effective:

Hanson's model finds that a one percent decrease in the effectiveness of IED attacks due to U.S. military counter tactucs decreases conventional attacks by approximately two percent. In real terms, Hanson estimates that countermeasures have prevented at least 1,997 conventional attacks.

He concludes:

The number of non-IED attacks prevented exceeds the number of IED attacks rendered ineffective by the countermeasures, suggesting that the effectiveness of IED countermeasures has been significantly understated.

And likely a fringe benefit the military hadn't imagined.

[bth: the comments on the original linked article are worth reading in full.]

YouTube - the gratitude campaign (short)

YouTube - the gratitude campaign (short): ""

Brattleboro Reformer - No more blank checks for Iraq

Brattleboro Reformer - No more blank checks for Iraq: "The Washington Post reported on Saturday that the Democratic leadership in Congress is once again working on a deal that would trade as much as $70 billion in continued funding for the Iraq war in exchange for about $11 billion in funding increases for domestic programs.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told the Post that "everybody knows that (President Bush) has no intention of signing anything without money for Iraq, unfettered, without constraints."

So that is likely to be the spending package that President Bush gets -- more money for Iraq without a timetable for withdrawal, in exchange for a few crumbs for domestic priorities. It also appears that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has signed on to this proposal.

Many Republicans in Congress don't support this compromise. They want the war funding without increased domestic spending. And Bush is adamant about holding the line on non-war spending.

If this deal comes to pass, it will be the third time since the Democrats became the majority party in Congress that they have capitulated to the Bush administration's demands on Iraq. And it is very likely that the Democrats will give the president his war money and get nothing in return.
For a party that came to power in the 2006 elections on a platform of accountability and forcing the Bush administration to change its course in Iraq, the Democrats have a dismal record this year. On the one overriding issue that gave them control of Congress, they have failed.

Vermont Congressman Peter Welch told the Reformer on Monday that he would not vote for any sort of compromise on Iraq war funding. "This deal is completely unacceptable," said Welch. "It completely takes away accountability for the administration."

Welch said he would like to see an up-or-down vote on funding and for Congress to use its constitutionally mandated power to dictate how federal money is spent. "If you oppose the war, you have to use the power of the purse," said Welch.

But that has been an option that the Democratic leadership refuses to use in seeking a stop to the Iraq war. While Welch said that he has supported every bill that has taken an aggressive approach to ending funding for the war and bringing our soldiers home, he said he realizes that he is a freshman lawmaker from a tiny state and that his influence is limited.

While a solid majority of Americans want to see our troops leave Iraq soon, the Democrats are still too timid and too afraid to stand up to the Bush administration. We know that while they are in the majority, the Democrats do not have enough of a majority to make a difference in the way the Bush administration conducts itself.

Just the same, we believe it is unacceptable for the Democratic leadership in Congress to use war funding as a bargaining chip for other projects. It makes it difficult for the party's supporters to just stand by while the Democrats walk away from the issue that they won on in 2006.

Welch told us that he understands that frustration. He said that he has had many of his constituents ask him about the Iraq war and ask him why the war hasn't ended. He said he realizes it's a complex issue without simple answers and does what he can to explain what is going on. He knows, however, that many remain dissatisfied with what Congress has done so far.

Americans have a right to be dissatisfied. All the Democrats have managed to do so far this year in Congress is gain a bigger share of ownership of the worst foreign policy debacle in our history. And still, the party leadership keeps compromising and continues to give President Bush a blank check for a war that more and more Americans have concluded is a lost cause. It is not a record the Democrats can be proud of.

[bth: the problem Democrats in Washington have now is that they are and are viewed as part of the problem, not part of the solution.]

YouTube - Turning Toward Hope

YouTube - Turning Toward Hope: ""

Military Leaders: Ignore Bush Veto Threat, Ban Waterboarding - Politics on The Huffington Post

Military Leaders: Ignore Bush Veto Threat, Ban Waterboarding - Politics on The Huffington Post: "Thirty retired admirals and generals have penned a letter to key Democrats, urging them to defy President Bush's veto threats and pass legislation requiring U.S intelligence agents to follow strict standards for detainee treatment.

The letter - which is addressed to Senate and House intelligence chairmen John Rockefeller and Silvestre Reyes - urges the passage of Section 327 of the Conference Report on the Intelligence Authorization Act. The act passed the House this morning by a vote of 222 to 199 (only five Republicans supported the measure) but faces stiff opposition in the Senate. It would restrict the CIA from waterboarding by confining the agency to interrogation techniques permitted by the Army Field Manual.

"We believe it is vital to the safety of our men and women in uniform that the United States not sanction the use of interrogation methods it would find unacceptable if inflicted by the enemy against captured Americans," the military officials write. "That principle, embedded in the Army Field Manual, has guided generations of American military personnel in combat. The current situation, in which the military operates under one set of interrogation rules that are public and the CIA operates under a separate, secret set of rules, is unwise and impractical."....

[bth: so if he's going to veto it over torture, let him.]

Bhutto: Fatal bomb was rigged to baby 

Bhutto: Fatal bomb was rigged to baby - - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "MARDAN Pakistan — The bomb that ravaged Benazir Bhutto's homecoming processional in October appears to have been rigged to the clothes of a baby who was held up for the former prime minister to embrace, Mrs. Bhutto said.

A man approached her armored truck, Mrs. Bhutto recounted, and was trying to hand across a small child as her motorcade inched through the thronged streets of Karachi. She remembers gesturing for the man to come closer.

"It was about 1 or 2 years old, and I think it was a girl," Mrs. Bhutto told The Washington Times in her first public remarks about the baby.

"We feel it was a baby, kidnapped, and its clothes were rigged with explosives. He kept trying to hand it to people to hand to me. I'm a mother, I love babies, but the [streetlights] had already gone out, and I was worried about the baby getting dropped or hurt."

Mrs. Bhutto would have been killed, she said, if she hadn't stepped back to loosen the shoes on her swollen feet.

"The baby, the bomb, it went off only feet from me; there was nothing between us but the wall of the truck," she said.

"We were rocking from side to side, this huge truck. We saw the bodies, the blood everywhere; we saw the carnage. Some bodies were naked, with their clothes burned off," she said, shutting her kohl-rimmed eyes against the vision.

More than 170 supporters were killed in coordinated blasts along the route, a horror that was carried on live television and has shaped the already tumultuous campaign season here....

Poll Shows More Optimism on War

Poll Shows More Optimism on War - washingtonpost.com: "A" year after approval of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq dipped to an all-time low, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds discontent toward the war easing slightly, with Republicans and independents significantly more positive about the situation than they were 12 months ago.

Baseline judgments about the war are unchanged -- six in 10 in the poll said the war is not worth fighting -- but the public is somewhat more upbeat about progress in Iraq. Optimism about the year ahead is also higher than it was a year ago.

Although a majority say the United States is not making significant gains toward restoring civil order in Iraq, the public's views are more positive than at this time last year. About four in 10 say the United States is making progress, an increase of 10 percentage points over last year.

Looking ahead to the new year, the public is somewhat more hopeful about the situation in Iraq. Forty-six percent said they are optimistic about the situation in Iraq in 2008, six points higher than in December 2006.

The improved public assessment comes as the rate of U.S. casualties and the violence in general in Iraq have declined. The war has also recently been overshadowed by other issues on the presidential campaign trail.

Movement in public assessment on the war is largely driven by a more positive outlook among Republicans.

Nearly eight in 10 Republicans, 77 percent, said the United States is improving the security situation in Iraq, up from 54 percent a year ago. Three-quarters of Republicans are optimistic about the year ahead in Iraq; 12 months ago, barely more than half felt that way.

A majority of independents continue to see a lack of progress, but the percentage seeing significant gains is up 14 points, to 42 percent. At the same time, independents are about as pessimistic as they were. Democrats remain overwhelmingly negative about the situation on the ground now and in the year ahead.

Democrats are still largely disapproving of the decision to go to war, with 85 percent saying that, given the costs and benefits to the United States, the war is not worth fighting. More than six in 10 independents agree, whereas three-quarters of Republicans call the war worth the effort. These numbers have shifted only marginally, as 37 percent of all Americans call the war worth fighting, nearly identical to the percentage saying so in December 2006.

As was true a year ago, the intensity of opinion runs against the war. Twice as many said they feel "strongly" that the Iraq war is not worth fighting as those who feel strongly that it is.

Nor has there been a fundamental change on troop withdrawal. The public remains divided, with a narrow majority, 53 percent, favoring withdrawal regardless of conditions on the ground and 43 percent in favor of keeping forces in Iraq until civil order is restored, even with continued U.S. military casualties.

Still, President Bush's approval ratings on the war have improved: One-third of those polled rate his handling of the war positively, up from his career low of 28 percent last December. That five-point increase in approval again comes primarily from Republicans.

Nearly three-quarters of Republicans approve of the job Bush is doing on the war; nearly half, 48 percent, strongly approve, compared with 36 percent last December. Independents show a similar upward trend in their ratings but overall remain closer to Democrats than to Republicans in their assessment of Bush's performance on the war.

Among independents, approval of the president's war management has grown from 23 percent last December to 34 percent; strong approval has tripled, to 18 percent.

Bush's overall approval rating, at 33 percent, remains at his career low point in Post-ABC polling, with 64 percent disapproving. The percentage of Americans approving of the president has been the same since July and has been under 50 percent for more than 2 1/2 years.

Approval of Congress is up slightly since reaching a 12-year low in Post-ABC polling a month ago. Overall approval stands at 32 percent, with most of the increase caused by a rebound in positive sentiment from liberal Democrats. After the approval rate dropped to 22 percent last month, 42 percent of liberal Democrats now approve of the job Congress is doing.

Asked which party is better on the issue of Iraq, 49 percent said Democrats and 35 percent Republicans. Independents, a crucial swing vote, are more evenly divided, 40 percent for Democrats to 33 percent for Republicans. Nearly two in 10 independents chose neither party on the issue.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone Dec. 6-9 among a random national sample of 1,136 adults. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points. It is larger for subgroups.

- Where to Give As Veterans Get Shortchanged By Charities - Politics | Republican Party | Democratic Party | Political Spectrum

FOXNews.com - Where to Give As Veterans Get Shortchanged By Charities - Politics | Republican Party | Democratic Party | Political Spectrum: "Americans"who want to make charitable donations to U.S. veterans are wondering where to send their money this holiday season after it was discovered that inefficient management practices kept millions of dollars from the troops.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing Thursday on veterans charities after the nonprofit watchdog group the American Institute of Philanthropy gave failing grades to 10 of 27 veterans charities it reviewed.

One of the biggest charities listed in the report was The American Veterans Relief Foundation, which spent about 1 percent of the money it raised on program services. For every $100 contributed, only $16 ended up going to veterans and $84 was spent on operations expenses, such as salaries and marketing. That's more than double what is recommended.

AVRF says on its Web site that it provides financial assistance to homeless veterans as well as money for mortgages, rent, medical payments and veterans' memorials. It promises that donations also will go toward "thinking of you" care packages to vets in hospitals.

Another group flagged by the AIP is the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, which also received a failing grade. While 32 percent of the funds raised by the organization goes toward charitable causes, the group is considered a donor risk because it is not very open about sharing its financial information.

Purple Heart, as it's known, collects used clothing to give to former military members in need and also promises to "raise funds for service, welfare and rehabilitation work in connection with the members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A." and other disabled or wounded vets, according to its Web site.

A third failing veterans charity is the National Veterans Services Fund, which vows to give money raised to those who fought in the Vietnam and Gulf wars, with a focus on families with disabled children. That group gives only 2 percent and spends $97 on operational costs for every $100 it makes, according to the report.

There are no laws regulating the amount of money charities spend on overhead, fundraising or giving. The institute's report suggests that the 10 charities that received failing grades, along with eight more that received a D grade, were managing their resources poorly. Other large organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and the USO passed, but just barely, squeaking by with a C- and a C+, respectively.

But the AIP also identified the "good" charities that provide funds for American veterans.

The Fisher House Foundation is among those that got top marks for its work. It passes on 92 percent of the funds it raises and spends only $2 for every $100 it collects.

The foundation funds and builds "comfort houses" on the grounds of military bases and hospitals around the world so that family members can stay close to their loved ones who are serving their country.

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is another of the best veterans charities donors can contribute to. It gives all but about 3 percent of money raised and spends only about $1 to raise $100.

Through its Intrepid Museums around the country and other means of raising money, the fund supports members of the Armed Forces and their families.

And the National Military Family Association is another safe bet for those wanting to send money to veterans, spending just 18 percent on operational expenses and $9 for every $100 it raises.

The group's contributions go toward "active duty, reserve, survivor and retiree families of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration," according to its Web site.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform heard the AIP's President Daniel Borochoff testify as to why so many of the nonprofits failed to receive passing marks for their efficiency in raising funds and getting it to those who need it.

"Right now, there's incredible waste out there and it's being done in the name of our noble veterans," Borochoff said.

His group says many of the veterans' philanthropies raise money using for-profit groups hired to do direct mail or telemarketing campaigns that solicit donors indiscriminately, rather than targeting those more likely to give.

The problem is even more significant because some 200,000 veterans — or about a third of the entire adult homeless population — are living on the streets, according to the AIP.

"A huge percentage of our homeless are veterans," said AIP analyst Laurie Styron. "There's a lot of need for veterans out there."...

Jurors Deadlock in 6 of 7 Defendants in Plot to Destroy Sears Tower - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News

FOXNews.com - Jurors Deadlock in 6 of 7 Defendants in Plot to Destroy Sears Tower - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News: "MIAMI" In a stinging defeat for the Bush administration, one of seven Miami men accused of plotting to join forces with Al Qaeda to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower was acquitted Thursday, and the case against the rest ended in a hung jury.

Federal prosecutor Richard Gregorie said the government planned to retry the six next year, and the judge said a new jury would be picked starting Jan. 7.

The White House had seized on the case to illustrate the dangers of homegrown terrorism and trumpet the government's post-Sept. 11 success in infiltrating and smashing terrorism plots in their earliest stages.

Lyglenson Lemorin, 32, had been accused of being a "soldier" for alleged ringleader Narseal Batiste. He buried his face in his hands when his acquittal was read.

Lemorin, a legal U.S. resident originally from Haiti, was subject to an immigration hold and would not be immediately released, his lawyer said....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

YouTube - LEGO MINIGUN 2 20 Rubberbands per second!! (S-41)

YouTube - LEGO MINIGUN 2 20 Rubberbands per second!! (S-41): ""

YouTube - AUTOMATIC LEGO CROSSBOW PISTOL

YouTube - AUTOMATIC LEGO CROSSBOW PISTOL: ""

Main and Central: The Osprey Is a Land Bird

Main and Central: The Osprey Is a Land Bird: "A while back we took a brief look at the V-22 Osprey, the new V/STOL aircraft designed to support USMC land warfare operations after the retirement of the service’s aging CH-46 helicopter fleet.

The Osprey has been 25 years in development, and shakeout testing and improving has cost the lives of 30 people and a large amount of money. The money had to be spent on something because the Marines’ CH-46 fleet dates back to the Viet Nam era, Our good friend Gordon remembers riding in 46’s on a few CAs during his participation in the South East Asian war games of 1963-1975. Gordon is old. Really, really old, and some of the Marines’ slicks are only slightly younger than he is.

The V-22 is pioneering new battle doctrine because of its unique ability to fly at up to 270 knots in an off-shore sprint to a landing zone, and then by rotating its engine nacelles, quickly convert to vertical flight to hover in to a landing in order to debark assault troops. It’s an entirely new type of flight, and in addition to developing this machine which has a 2007 fly-away cost of $70 million each, the Marines have had to write an new doctrinal manual for expeditionary support.

The first Ospreys were deployed to Iraq in October, flying in off a helicopter carrier. One just barely made it ashore.

BAGHDAD — The controversial V-22 Osprey has arrived in a combat zone for the first time.
It was an epic trip for the innovative tilt-rotor plane, one that took more than 25 years of development and cost 30 lives and $20 billion. Even the last short hop — from an aircraft carrier into Iraq — went awry, U.S. military officials said Monday.

A malfunction forced one of the 10 Ospreys that were deployed to land in Jordan on Thursday. The Marines flew parts to it from Iraq and repaired it. After it took off again Saturday, the problem recurred, and it had to turn back and land in Jordan a second time, said Maj. Jeff Pool, a U.S. military spokesman in western Iraq. It finally was repaired and arrived at al Asad Air Base in western Iraq late Sunday afternoon.


Two trips to repair the plane before it could be brought up to Iraq. Imagine that.

At the time I was a bit edgy about the matter, commenting that it was a good thing they got it ashore, and a lucky break that the engine fire extinguishers weren’t built by the same contractor who built the kitchen fire extinguishing system in the Baghdad Green Zone Embassy, our planned cornerstone for the 21st century American Empire.

I wish I’d never made that smartcrack about the fire extinguishers. Another case of life imitating art:

More than half of the Air Force’s small fleet of CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft are seeing only limited flight time while they await modifications to a faulty engine component that caused a fire in a Marine Corps version of the aircraft.
Four of the service’s seven Ospreys are being flown only “on an as-required basis,” while three have already been modified and are fully operational, said 1st Lt. Amy Cooper, a spokeswoman for Air Force Special Operations Command, which owns the aircraft.

Work on the remaining four aircraft should be complete “shortly after the new year,” Cooper said, allowing them to return to full service.


It might be expected the Marine V-22s are seeing harder service than the Air Force’s CV-22A models.

The modifications were ordered after a Marine Corps Osprey from Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., had to make an emergency landing due to an engine fire Nov. 6.
The faulty component, called the engine air particle separator, collects dust, dirt and debris that might find its way into the engine. [emph added]


The Army encountered the same sort of problems with the filtering systems on its AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, and quite a few of them encountered unexpected down time during Gulf War I for the same reasons. It might be too difficult to make engine filters capable of screening out sand and grit. Or possibly man is just not meant to fly in the desert. Perhaps we should be looking into high-speed, low-drag, heavy-lift camels for our future Middle Eastern conquests

Pentagon's Bomb-Fighters: Temps, Well Paid

Pentagon's Bomb-Fighters: Temps, Well Paid (Updated) | Danger Room from Wired.com#more#more#more#more#more: "Just about everyone in the national security establishment agrees that improvised bombs are going to be the terrorist weapon of choice for a long, long time to come. And just about everyone agrees that the U.S. hasn't found any sort of definitive defense against the explosives -- if there's a definitive defense to be had, at all.

But what no one can seem to agree on is how to handle the threat. For each of the last several years, the Defense Department has poured $4 billion into the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO. The group has made some important strides -- funding next-generation jammers that have largely stopped radio-controlled bombs in Iraq, for instance. But Congress has been unhappy with the group, complaining about JIEDDO's "exponential growth." And even insiders say the group has a "strategic flaw." So the question is: Should the Pentagon make JIEDDO a permanent organization, or just a temporary one, to help out with Afghanistan and Iraq?

For now, Inside Defense reports, the answer is: temporary. The Pentagon has decided against "institutionalizing" the JIEDDO within the department. And that's despite the backing of some of the Defense Department's most powerful figures. Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, for one, called for the institutionalization of the organization in his list of Pentagon’s "25 top transformation priorities."


Congress -- which, for a while, was considering cutting JIEDDO's baseline budget by 75% in the end wound up fully funding the group for next year. Inside Defense notes:

Last week, House and Senate conferees agreed to set aside $4.77 billion for JIEDDO, but demanded an independent review of the agency’s activities, including what it has accomplished, feedback from warfighters and the tools and processes in place for self-evaluation.

“The conferees remain concerned about the effectiveness of JIEDDO and its ability to effectively coordinate the Department’s and intelligence community’s response to the improvised explosive device and asymmetric threats faced by the warfighter in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the associated report says.

UPDATE: How well paid? I just talked to a perspective JIEDDO employee who's looking at $15,000 per month. Which ain't bad for government work.

Welcome To Red State Update with Jackie Broyles and Dunlap

Welcome To Red State Update with Jackie Broyles and Dunlap

Losing Weight in the Gulf - New York Times

Losing Weight in the Gulf - New York Times: "Growing Growing up in Minnesota, one of my favorite things was going to the state fair each summer and watching the guy who would guess your weight within 5 pounds. If you fooled him, you won a stuffed animal.

Out here on the Persian Gulf, where small countries learn quickly how to survive large predators, they’ve developed a similar skill: They can calculate a country’s power within 5 pounds, just by looking at it. If they’re wrong, they end up as a stuffed animal.

Right now, the Arab Gulf states are all sizing up America, their protector, and are wondering just how much Uncle Sam weighs in the standoff with Iran — and whether it will be enough to keep Iran at bay.

I’ve been at a security conference in the tiny Gulf state of Bahrain, attended by defense officials and analysts from all over the world, and all the buzz has been about the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. It has left every Arab and European expert I’ve spoken to baffled — not in its conclusions, but by why those conclusions were framed in a way that is sure to reduce America’s leverage to negotiate with Tehran.

The Gulf Arabs feel like they have this neighbor who has been a drug dealer for 18 years. Recently, this neighbor has been very visibly growing poppies for heroin in his backyard in violation of the law. He’s also been buying bigger and better trucks to deliver drugs. You can see them parked in his driveway.

In the past year, though, because of increased police patrols and all the neighbors threatening to do something, this suspicious character has shut down the laboratory in his basement to convert poppies into heroin. In the wake of that, the police declared that he is no longer a drug dealer.

“But wait,” say the Gulf Arabs, “he’s still growing poppies. He was using them for heroin right up to 2003. Now he says he’s in the flower business. He’s not in the flower business. He’s dealing drugs. And he’s still expanding the truck fleet to deliver them. How can you say he’s no longer a drug dealer?”

Sorry, say the police. We have a very technical, legal definition of drug-dealing, and your neighbor no longer fits it.

That’s basically what has happened between the U.S. and Iran — just substitute enriched uranium for poppies. Now, Bush officials are trying to tell everyone: “No, no, Iran is still dangerous. You have to keep the coalition together to get Tehran to stop enriching uranium.” But in a world where everyone is looking for an excuse to do business with Iran, not to sanction it, we’ve lost leverage. Everyone in the neighborhood can smell it — and it worries them.

Said Gary Samore, director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Clinton administration expert on proliferation: “The U.S. N.I.E., by leading with the statement that Iran has halted its nuclear weapons program, has left the misleading impression that the danger has passed.”

It has not passed, he noted, because Iran is still enriching uranium in violation of U.N. proliferation rules to which Iran had agreed (and testing long-range delivery missiles). Yes, it is still enriching below weapons grade. Iran says this is to fuel nuclear reactors to generate electricity — but it has no such reactors. And to get that uranium enriched to weapons grade, all it has to do is keep running it through its centrifuges.

“That is the hardest part of building a nuclear weapon, and Iran is still doing it,” said Mr. Samore. “Our ability to get strong international sanctions to halt that was already weak,” but by declaring definitively that Iran’s weapons program had been halted, the N.I.E. “has given the Russians and Chinese a good excuse to make sanctions even weaker.”

As I have said before, I’d rather see Iran go nuclear, and contain it, than have the Bush team start another Middle East war over this issue. But I’d much prefer a negotiated end to Iran’s enrichment. Right now there is a silly debate: Should we negotiate with Iran “conditionally” or “unconditionally” on this issue. Wrong question. The right question is should we enter such negotiations with or without leverage.

If we sit down with the Iranians without the leverage of a global coalition ready to impose tighter and tighter economic sanctions — should Iran not halt enrichment — we’ll end up holding a stuffed animal. The peculiar (obtuse?) way the N.I.E. on Iran was framed has deprived all who favor a negotiated settlement of leverage.

“It was the C.I.A. doing its job of collecting intelligence really well and presenting it really badly,” said Mr. Samore.

Now we have to depend on — Oh, my God! — President Bush to persuade the world to read the whole N.I.E. and see it in a balanced perspective. As I’ve also said before: Some things are true even if George Bush believes them, but good luck getting anyone to buy that anymore.

[bth: well Tom it may be the case that you, the neocons and Bush screamed wolf one too many times for the rest of us.]

Foreign Relations - British Policy in Iraq and Afghanistan | ePluribus Media

Foreign Relations - British Policy in Iraq and Afghanistan | ePluribus Media: "From time to time I have written commentaries about the underlying nature
of British policy in Iraq, since the decision was taken to reduce
British troop presence in that country and transfer the main effort to
Afghanistan. Juan Cole was kind enough to front page one of these.

Expressed simply, the Coalition forces are in danger of losing the
war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, despite such successful actions as that at Musa Qala, Helmand in the last few days. The sole answer to this
provided by the US and UK is to bolster existing forces in that
country. Other European NATO countries have been reluctant to respond.
Most none US/UK countries that have a presence in that country refuse
to take a front-line combat role.

The relations between the White House and Downing Street have not been
easy - although it would be quite wrong to characterize this as being
a rift. Bushco is fully aware that British forces are stretched to
breaking point - both materially and in terms of personnel. The UK
papers have been full of retired Chiefs of Staff condemning the poor
re-equipping of UK forces. This is strongly rebutted by the Brown
Government but there is a truth in this that goes beyond the normal
demand for more money that always comes from the military and the
opportunistic Conservative opposition to the government which sees
this issue as just another stick with which to beat it around the
head.

As a result, the White House has reluctantly agreed to support the UK
position in the south of Iraq, to allow greater concentration on
Afghanistan.

I have written before about how we Brits are past masters
(historically coming from the handover to independence of former
colonies) in withdrawing from countries as if in victory and
"disguising" that it was a scurrying back home because maintaining a
presence was too economically demanding or internal pressures within
those countries have been too great.

This week, almost unremarked on our blogs, British Prime Minister
Brown was first in Iraq and later in Afghanistan. In part this was to
distract attention at home from domestic failures. It was also used as
a way of announcing "mission accomplished" to cover further British
withdrawal in the South. So the Union Jack is taken down with drum
rolls and bugle calls and the the flag of the inadequate Iraqi Army is
run up the flag pole. Salutes are exchanged and another "successful" UK overseas
intervention is hailed by the Government, to the consternation of the
parliamentary Opposition.

Our stance could be to deride this farce as simply spin to cover up
the depletion of UK military forces and the strength of the opposition
in and around Basra. After all, it is appropriate to point out the failures in
the whole Iraq debacle.

Much more important is that, however cynically undertaken, this
withdrawal by British troops shows just how easy it to disengage from
the occupation. It can be done in a way that provides sufficient
political cover with the electorate back home and future history can
be written by those drum rolls and salutes. It is a message that
Democrats should take note of and it is one that discomfits George
Bush. Withdrawal could happen immediately, now, if he so chose.

Instead, Democrats have to cope with today's headlines in the New York
Times. "Bombs Kill 27 in Iraqi Area British Troops Left in April".
These awful deaths occurred in the Maysan Province that was handed to
Iraqis in April. The GOP response is "see what will happen if we
withdraw too early from Iraq" whereas the truth is that this was the
consequence of inter-Shiite militia rivalry. It is ugly but it is what self-
determination of the fate of their own country will entail. It is not
an argument to support our continued presence or for us to heed the
New York Times comment that it "highlighted both the volatility of
the south and the potential risks of turning over security to Iraqi
forces in areas where tensions still run high."

We need to get this sophisticated message out powerfully to counteract
the wrong take on all of this by those who favour continued Iraq occupation. No knee-jerk reaction to simply laugh and point the finger at Bush to show how his policy is
failing but the more serious message that it is a reaffirmation that
withdrawal - even in the cynically disguised British way - is possible
now and that the consequences need to be accepted if genuine Iraqi
freedom is to be made available to them.

Brown went on to Afghanistan and make his official pronouncements that
military victory is possible in that country and achievable (since
questioned unofficially by a senior British commander on the ground)
but this needs another diary. It will have to wait.

(Not cross-posted to Daily Kos because I am hoping that others will pick up and run with these thoughts in a way that will get them noticed among the frenetic diaries on that blog).

A New Entry in the Lexicon of the Bush Years

Firedoglake - Firedoglake weblog » A New Entry in the Lexicon of the Bush Years: "It's early in the morning, I'm on my first cup of coffee, and it may be those things that are bringing me down too, but one statement yesterday is among the most disturbing ever uttered by any figure in a Congressional Hearing.

Yesterday, before the Senate Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security subcommittee hearing on the legal rights of Guantánamo detainees Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, the legal adviser to the military tribunal system stated that he would not rule out the possibility of "Waterboarding" being used on detainees nor would he exclude the use of such evidence during their trials:


''If the evidence is reliable and probative and the judge concluded it is in the interest of justice to use that evidence"

Rarely has one sentence been both so ironic and so disgusting.

In other testimony, Hartmann could not say that an American soldier waterboarded by an enemy nation is being tortured.

The nation continues to abandon its ideals with barely a peep -- while having Lee Greenwood songs thrust upon us.

[bth: this is a process declared torture by the Geneva Convention.]

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

 
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Will Iraq's Great Awakening Lead to a Nightmare?

Will Iraq's Great Awakening Lead to a Nightmare?: "American casualties in Iraq have declined dramatically over the last 90 days to levels not seen since 2006, and the White House has attributed the decline to the surge of 35-40,000 U.S. combat troops. But a closer look suggests a different explanation. More than two years of sectarian violence have replaced one country called Iraq with three emerging states: one Kurdish, one Sunni, and one Shiite. This created what a million additional U.S. troops could not: a strategic opportunity to capitalize on the Sunni-Shiite split. So after Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr decided to restrain his Mahdi army from attacking U.S. forces, General David Petraeus and his commanders began cutting deals with Sunni Arab insurgents, agreeing to allow these Sunnis to run their own affairs and arm their own security forces in return for cooperation with U.S. forces against Al Qaeda fighters. As part of the bargain, the Sunni leaders obtained both independence from the hated Shiite-dominated government, which pays far more attention to Tehran's interests than to Washington's, and money—lots of money.

Striking such a "sheikhs for sale" deal (whether they be Sunni or Shiite) is nothing new in the Arab world. The men who ran the British Empire routinely paid subsidies in gold to unruly tribal leaders from the Khyber Pass to the headwaters of the Nile. (Of course, British subsidies were a pittance compared with the billions Britain extracted from its colonies in Africa and Asia.) While the arrangement reached by U.S. military commanders and dubbed the "Great Awakening" has allowed the administration and its allies to declare the surge a success, it carries long-term consequences that are worrisome, if not perilous. The reduction in U.S. casualties is good news. But transforming thousands of anti-American Sunni insurgents into U.S.-funded Sunni militias is not without cost. In fact, the much-touted progress in Iraq could lead to a situation in which American foreign-policy interests are profoundly harmed and the Middle East is plunged into even a larger crisis than currently exists.

First, a warning. We don't know much about developments within Iraq. Military officers who have recently served in Iraq tell me they don't truly understand Iraq's complexity or the duplicitous nature of the Iraqis they work with. In my conservations with them, they raise troubling questions that don't lend themselves to sound-bite answers on talk radio or the evening news. Is the Great Awakening inside the Sunni Arab community the road to Iraq's stability, or is it just a pause for Sunni rearmament and reorganization? Is it a means to secure American military bases inside an emerging Sunni client state generously supplied with cash from Saudi Arabia, a kind of cordon sanitaire along the fault line that separates the Sunni Arab world from Shiite Iran and its beachhead in southern Iraq? Does this development mean America wins when our former Sunni Arab enemies regain power in central Iraq? Or—here's the most disturbing question—will the presumed successes of today be catalysts for yet bloodier civil war inside Iraq or, worse, larger regional war?

With eyes firmly fixed on Jan. 20, 2009—the departure date for this administration—the White House and its generals aren't publicly addressing such policy implications. They're not interested in explaining why the world's most powerful military establishment has resorted to buying off its enemies, effectively supplanting counterinsurgency with cash-based cooptation.

Officers who've served in Iraq warn that the Great Awakening could be transitory. "The Sunni insurgents are following a 'fight, bargain, subvert, fight' approach to get what they want," said one colonel. So Americans need to explore whether U.S. forces are courting long-term strategic success, or if the expedient cash surge is leading U.S. forces into a new phase of conflict that could engulf the region and create a perfect storm.

In four years of occupation and civil war, hundreds of thousands of Arabs, including many Sunnis, have been killed, wounded, or incarcerated. About two million more Arabs, most of them Sunni, have fled the country. How many more Sunni and Shiite Arabs have died over the last two years as a result of the civil war is unknown, but the numbers are likely greater than anyone in the Pentagon or State Department is prepared to admit.

That the Sunni Arab population is tired of fighting is beyond dispute, but winning Sunni Arab hearts and minds in the aftermath of the last four years' violence seems a remote possibility. So, in the absence of the common interest in disposing of Al Qaeda's unwanted foreign fighters and war fatigue, what besides cash motivates the Great Awakening?

Officers familiar with Iraq's Sunni Arab leaders insist these leaders genuinely believe that if left alone by U.S. occupation forces and receiving modest financial support from Saudi Arabia they can eventually crush the Shiite militias and regain their dominant position inside Iraq. If true, the "awakening" may simply be an opportunity for Iraq's Sunni Arabs to consolidate and prepare without American interference for an inevitable, future showdown with the Shiites whether U.S. forces withdraw or not.

A former U.S. Army battalion commander with extensive service in Iraq reports, "It is my sense the Sunni Arab leaders are using the pause in the fight with U.S. forces to take a breather, harden and regroup themselves much like a conventional army would rest and refit after a major battle. Besides, who do the generals in Baghdad think are targeting and killing Iraqi Security Forces? It's the Sunni insurgents. They're just not shooting at us right now."

One of the unspoken assumptions that underpins the "awakening" is that U.S. occupation forces can place untold thousands of Sunni insurgents on the U.S. government's payroll, allowing them to rearm and recuperate inside Sunni-pure enclaves while U.S. forces open a new front in the war against the Shiite militias. Thus far, Tehran has advised its Shiite friends in Iraq to restrain their fighters in the hope the U.S. occupation will end and allow the Shiites to consolidate their victory. The question now is whether the Shiite militias will continue to lie low or risk the kind of campaign against U.S. forces that the Sunnis waged for nearly four years.

No one knows the answer. But it is doubtful Muqtada al-Sadr will do nothing as U.S. forces halt operations against the Shiites' old enemies and allow these enemies to rebuild. He may well step up attacks on Americans, assisted by the Shiite-dominated Iraqi Security Forces. And if that happens, retaliatory attacks by U.S. forces on the Mahdi Army could mobilize the Shiite population behind Muqtada al-Sadr in the fight against their old Sunni Baathist oppressors who are now openly allied with the Americans. In such a battle—a revived civil war—what the majority Shiite Iraqi army will do is another unknown.

What happens in Iraq will not stay in Iraq. That is, other states have an interest in the Sunni-Shiite fight. In many Arab countries, particularly the United States' oil-providing protectorates in the Persian Gulf, the ruling elite fear Iran and oppose the emergence of a Shiite-dominated Iraq, something the U.S. military occupation effectively created when it sided with the Shiites against the Sunnis in 2003. These ruling elites worry that they too could be replaced one by one with "faithful" Sharia-based Islamists.

The Bush State Department seems determined to exploit such fears, promising that giant American bases like the 30,000-man Balad Air Base will offer the Sunni elites security in the form of an anti-Iranian Maginot line that stretches from the Indian Ocean to the Turkish border. This may be the Bush administration's strategic ploy to win the support (or acquiescence) of neighboring Sunni Arab countries for continuing the U.S. military occupation of Iraq long after Bush leaves office. However, what the corrupt ruling elites of the Arab world agree to and what their restive populations will accept are very different things—meaning that a status quo predicated on U.S. troops remaining stationed in Iraq lacks stability.

Tehran is certainly watching developments in Iraq with interest. The Iranian leaders have turned out to be very competent chess players in foreign affairs, carefully calculating each move. As demonstrated by the recent National Intelligence Estimate's reassessment of Iranian nuclear aims, the Bush administration and its generals are, at best, poker players. Every raise and bluff by the Bush administration and its generals in Baghdad has been effectively countered with some very thoughtful, strategic moves by Tehran—moves aimed at cultivating close relationships with Turkey, Russia, China, and even Europe.

This brings us to the big concern: The unresolved (if not heightened) instability within Iraq could lead to unforeseen consequences of a strategic nature—say, a war between Turkey and the Kurds. Inside Turkey, the United States is viewed as a false friend, and as having betrayed the interests of its steadfast Turkish ally. Not only has Washington failed to end Kurdish support in Iraq for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which advocates independence for Kurds inside Turkey, but the United States also occupied Iraq over Ankara's strong objections. These points of friction coincide with an Islamic revival and a growing desire within Turkey for an assertion of national power. Like the Orthodox Church and Russian nationalism, Islam is inextricably intertwined with Turkish identity, culture, and history.

According to the Pew Research Center, only 9 percent of Turks still hold a favorable view of the United States, a figure that places Turkey last of 46 countries surveyed. Turks now see America as a threat to Turkish national security. The anti-American attitude has been reinforced in the past few years within popular culture. In the Turkish blockbuster Valley of the Wolves Iraq, a small Turkish force heroically battles an evil U.S. military commander and his troops. In Metal Storm, a recent best-selling work of fiction, an all-out war between Ankara and Washington in 2007 is described, a war Turkey wins with the aid of Russian and European support.

Iran suspects it is a matter of when, not if, the Turks intervene in northern Iraq. Turkey, which boasts the largest army in NATO, is the 500-pound gorilla of the Muslim world and Iran knows it. And anti-Kurdish sentiment is leading to an alliance between Iran, Turkey, and Syria, each of which fear growing Kurdish independence.

It's hard to imagine a worse outcome for the United States than the sudden intervention of 100,000 Turkish troops in northern Iraq. Turkish intervention would rob the United States of the support of Kurdish troops that are now policing northern Iraq against Al Qaeda and containing the Sunni insurgency. And the Iranians, who are the real power behind the Shiite-dominated Baghdad government, would support a Turkish military intervention. (Russia and China might support the anti-Kurdish alliance, too.)

All this could well embolden the Sunni Arab insurgents to renew their war against the U.S. military. In the midst of this, the Saudis, Egyptians, and Gulf oil protectorates might even turn to the Turks, the natural leaders of the Sunni Muslim world, as a preferable alternative to their ties with the West and Israel. And add to this mix the instability within nuclear-armed Pakistan. This could all lead to a dreaded situation in which the United States finds itself stuck in the middle of a regional war, with the potential for chaos in Iraq on the rise and Iran's influence in Iraq growing.

Which brings us back to the Great Awakening. As 2008 approaches, all we can say with certainty is that unrelenting Arab hatred of the U.S. military presence in Iraq and the nature of the Sunni-Shiite struggle will make it unlikely that the cash-for-cooperation strategy will buy Iraq genuine stability, let alone the legitimate political order that is needed. (In the Saidiyah neighborhood of Baghdad, U.S. military officers have groups of "concerned citizens"—mainly Sunni—on the payroll. And the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has tried to undermine this effort, fearing the United States is organizing a rival Sunni force.)

Wherever American forces operate, they make a difference to their surroundings, but even officers with years of service in Iraq doubt that whatever the U.S. military builds for Iraq will survive the withdrawal of U.S. military power. History supports their conclusion. The last thousand years of history demonstrate that the imposition of foreign, particularly Western Christian, political systems or control on Muslim Arabs through military occupation has no chance of enduring permanently.

The storm may not hit soon. Until January 20, 2009, there is a high probability that the Arabs will take all the cash the generals are willing to give them, make minimal trouble, and bide their time. The Turks also prefer to wait for U.S. forces to leave or draw down before they intervene to eliminate the Kurdish threat. And Iran is nothing if not patient.

That said, if the next administration fails to disengage its forces from Iraq and renews the determination to hold on to the country, if it does not renounce the myth that America's mission in the world is to impose American concepts of political order on foreign peoples burdened with undeveloped economies and dysfunctional societies, all bets are off. Sunni and Shiite patience may well wear out, neighboring powers may cooperate to intervene, and this worst-case scenario (or one just as frightening) may eventually come to pass, compelling the United States to fight a major regional war far from its shores, one that is irrelevant to its strategic interests.

Meanwhile, thanks to superficial analysis and weak reporting from the media, the right questions about the "awakening" are going unasked and, therefore, unanswered. If the Marine Corps leadership were able to achieve a cease-fire with the Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province, a place where U.S. forces sustained a disproportionate number of their casualties on a monthly basis over the last three years, was it really necessary to commit additional U.S. combat troops? Why was it not possible to extend the Anbar model to the rest of Sunni-held Iraq? Or did the generals in Baghdad begin cutting deals with the Sunni insurgents only when the mounting casualties from the surge in the spring and early summer of 2007 compelled them to do so?

But the main problem is the belief held by U.S. policymakers and generals that the critical issue in Iraq is tactics, not the overall mission: occupying and trying to control a Muslim Arab country. Given the conventional wisdom that the U.S. counterinsurgency efforts are working, the imperial hubris at the top of the Bush administration, and the complacency in Congress, the conditions are ideal for a spin-off war that could cause us one day to wonder how we Americans could have ever been so stupid as to occupy Iraq
.



Douglas Macgregor is a retired Army colonel and a decorated Persian Gulf War combat veteran. He has authored three books on modern warfare and military reform. His latest is Transformation Under Fire: Revolutionizing the Way America Fights. He writes for the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

[bth: the only thing I would add is that to support any modern state or insurgency, cash flow, namely from oil or friendly Saudi sheiks with oil, is required. That oil lies in the Kurdish and Shea regions of Iraq. Second, we stripped the Sunnis of artillery, aircraft and helicopters that they ruthlessly used under Saddam to offset their numbers against Shea civilians and Kurds. The Sunnis, and likely the Shea, are almost certainly unable to hold and occupy territory they do not have indigenous support from. In fact the Sunnis were unable to hold neighborhoods in Iraq that were ethnically cleansed by Sadr. My point is, all those guns we gave to the Iraqi army went somewhere and the heavy weapons are no longer there... We basically have no friends in Iraq, only transient common interests with the possible exception of some but not all Kurds. ...Maybe Biden was right all along - split it up.]