Thursday, March 31, 2005

April Fools Science Friday

Duane Tate at Sotto Voce keyed in on the same article I did for April Fool's.  It's an editorial in the April 2005 Scientific American in which they say they're going to give things like creationism equal attention for balance.  Check it out at his blog:  Unscientific Unamerican.

My favorite lines are:

Blame the scientists.  They dazzled  us with their fancy fossils, their radiocarbon dating and their tens of thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles.  As editors, we had no business being persuaded by mountains of evidence.


Good journalism values balance above all. ... [I]f politicians or special-interest groups say things that seem untrue or misleading, our duty as journalists is to quote them without comment or contradiction.  To do to otherwise would be elitist and therefore wrong.

The sad part is that a lot of people these days might not even recognize that last quotation as satire!

That is a good piece of work.  Bob Somerby himself could have written it.

The editorial (which apparently is only in the print edition, not online) is accompanied by a graphic showing what the "new" Scientific American would look like.  The feature article on it is:

A Balanced Debate: Is the Earth Flat?

Accompanied by other features:

The Myth of the Atom

Let's Just Ignore CO2

Reason, Shmeason

15 Good Points by Creationists

Iraq War: The Iraq Culture Smart Card

This is an interesting item from the Federation of American Scientists Web site:  The Iraq Culture Smart Card (*.pdf file) designed by the Marine Corps to provide information for personnel serving in Iraq.  An easier-to-read non-pdf version is available from Der Spiegel divided into sections (with German versions included).

It's informative in itself.  And it provides a dramatic reminder of how difficult it is to fight a counterinsurgency campaign when you have to use American troops to gather intelligence and handle police actions like searching houses and breaking down doors to arrest suspects.

A few examples from the card give a good glimpse at this.  Among the "Don't Do This" items are included the following:

Don't point with a finger; it is a sign of contempt.  Instead, point with your entire hand.

Don't make the "OK" or "thumbs up" sign; they are considered obscene.

Remember early in the war when the TV cameras showed crowds of Iraqis giving the thumbs-up to American troops?  Our Republican war fans cheerfully took this as a sign of how happy they were to have us there.

Don't ask for a single opinion on an issue, as Iraqis often first reply with the answer they think you want to hear, rather than an honest response.

This makes sense.  Even in democracies, people will often dissemble about their political opinions in particular with people they don't know well.  In a society that has been governed for a long time by a dictatorship with a heavy surveillance of the populartion, this is a survival instinct.

I wonder how many Western reporters follow this caution when they do their "ordinary Iraqi on the street" interviews?

Iraq War: Democracy and support for the US

Sometimes the most interesting part of an article is buried in the middle or final paragraphs.  Sometimes its an aside that's unintentionally informative.  Both are the case in this article: U.S. Avoids Political Fight Among Iraqis by Ellen Knickmeyer Washington Post 03/31/05.

Most of the article I took with a huge dose of skepticism.  She claims that US officials are observing strict neutrality in the formation of the Iraqi government, on orders from President Bush.  This is too much to swallow.  An occupying power has to have some influence just in the nature of things.  Even a decision to remain technically neutral is a decision to affect the process in a certain way.  Plus staying pristinely neutral is just not the Bush administration's modus operandi.  I don't buy it.

In fact, out of design or incompetence or both, the constitution that the occupation authority left the Iraqi government included two provisions that have caused major problems in forming a government.  One was the decision to have the party representation in parliament based on the proportion of the nationwide vote.  Having votes by geographical district would have insured that in the Arab Sunni areas where the actual turnout was very low that there would have been a number of Arab Sunni representatives more proportional to the percentage of the population.  This in turn could have opened up more opportunities for governing coalitions.

The other provision was the ones requiring a 2/3 majority to form a government.  So far, that's proven impossible.  In fact, it's beginning to look like a recipe for gridlock and delay.

It wouldn't surprise me if the Bush administration isn't calculating on a longer rather than a shorter period of maintaining their man Allawi in power at the head of the Interim Government.

The one-sentence paragraph that really caught my eye, though, is this one:

A variety of Iraqi politicians involved in the government-building talks said this week that they had detected no active U.S. role, which all sides say would undermine support from a public greatly resentful of the two-year-old U.S. military occupation.

The constituencies represented among the elected Iraqi representatives seriously under-represents the hostile Arab Sunni areas where most of the insurgency is currently based.  The Shia and Kurds are less hostile and the moment, the Kurds presumably being much more well-disposed.

Yet all sides among these elected Iraqis say that any overt sign of endorsement by the United States would be a big political negative in a public greatly resentful of the US presence.

This is one of many reminders that democracy in the Middle East doesn't necessarily mean democratically-elected regimes would be more supportive of US foreign policy in any kind of short run.  Dan Murphy discusses this issue in New Arab rallying cry: 'Enough" Christian Science Monitor 03/31/05.

There's no question that the freedom rhetoric of the US and President Bush has helped crack the door for political activism in the Middle East. A look behind the slogan, however, reveals a complex web of secular and Islamist activists who say they share Bush's zeal for democracy, but expect real political change will lead to a repudiation of the US.

He proceeds to give several examples illustrating the point.  The most telling to me was the experience of the democratic movement in Egypt, known as Kifaya (Enough), which took its current form by involvement in protests against American policies:

The nucleus of what calls itself Kifaya today began organizing five years ago in response to the Palestinian uprising and picked up steam in March 2003 when about 10,000 Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo to protest the US invasion of Iraq. That protest quickly evolved into an anti-Mubarak demonstration, the first in his 25-year rule.

While those causes might seem far afield from demands for change inside Egypt, the country's activists see them as inextricably linked.

The US has provided about $2 billion a year in aid to Egypt since its 1980 peace agreement with Israel, and Egypt's activists see in the unpopular peace treaty and relative Egyptian silence over the invasion evidence that the country's foreign policy "has been colonized by the US,'' as Mr. Qandeel puts it.

Tales of the caliphs: ‛Abd al Malik, builder of the Dome of the Rock

‛Abd al-Malik, son of Marwān I, was caliph from 685-705.  As Hans Küng writes in Der Islam (2004), "this Umayyad caliph showed himself to be so much a capable politician, administrator and field marshal that he was almost called the second founder of the Umayyad dynasty." Though he and his successor son Walīd I were regarded as presiding over a period of reform, "The caliphate under ‛Abd al-Malik becomes considerably more autocratic, more hierarchical and more bureaucratic."

‛Abd al-Malik's regime faced the task of regaining control of the rebellious provinces and thereby bringing the second Muslim civil war to an end.  This he accomplished through his general al-Hağğāğ ibn Yūsuf, who Küng describes as being "as fearless as he was feared (but not cruel)."

Additional expansion in north Africa also marked ‛Abd al-Malik's rule.  Allying with the Berber tribes there, the caliph was able to tak Carthage from Byzantium in 697.

‛Abd al-Malik also undertook to Arabize the Muslim empire, which he saw as being also the an Islāmization, as well.  Part of his program involved establishing a special Islāmic currency for the empire, which used Muslim symbols rather than the Christian ones that appeared on the old Byzantine currency.  The Arab dinar would eventually become a leading currency in international trade, as Küng observes.

Arabic was instituted as the official imperial language to be used in court and official documents.  For a time, this required the retention of many Christians in the bureaucracy to translate Greek and Persian documents into Arabic.  But it led the way to Arabs eventually taking over those roles.

Part of the effect of this was to transform Arabic through the influence of Greek and Persian.  Küng writes, "Classical Arabic now becomes spoken only on ceremonial occasions."  It became a literary language, preserved especially in the famous Bedouin poetry.  This also meant that the classical Arabic of the Qur'ān started to sound old-fashioned, so that for the general public it was often "only vaguely understood - similarly to Latin in the medieval Church of Italy or Spain."

In addition, more distinctively Islāmic themes were introduced into art, a process carried on further by Walīd I.  The greatest artistic heritage left by ‛Abd al-Malik is the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (al-Quds is the Arabic name for the city).  Küng writes that the most recent research has shown conclusively that the Dome of the Rock stems from ‛Abd al-Malik's time, not that of ‛Umar as has sometimes been asserted.  It was not originally built as a mosque, but rather as a monumental structure.  Küng asks:

For what purpose?  In order to make it very clear to the entire world, here at the most holy place, on the bare rock of Mount Moriah, where according to tradition the sacrifice in which God required Abraham to offer his son is supposed to have taken place: [that] Islām stands in direct connection with the tribal father of Jews and Christians.  Yes, Islām has priority, because it renewed the original religion of Abraham against Jewish and Christian falsifications.

The inscriptions at the Dome of the Rock proclaim the unity of God, and name Jesus as the servant of God (consistent with Islāmic belief), not the Son of God as Christians understand him.

Another reason for the construction of the Dome was that ‛Abd al-Malik  wanted to elevate the status of Jersusalem as a holy city in Islām in order to reduce the prestige of Mecca and Medina as pilgrimage cities.  This was connected with his desire to reduce the influence of rival clans from those two holy cities.  Küng notes that he even considered relocating the sacred shrine at Mecca to Damascus.

In the years following ‛Abd al-Malik's caliphate, the Muslim empire continued to expand into what is today Uzbekistan, into India and into the Iberian peninsula.  Of the latter, Küng writes, "The 'pérdida de España,' the loss of Spain, caused a trauma in the Christian Occident that in part continues to have effects until today (the danger of a 'green flood from Africa to Europe'?)"  Green in that sense stand for Islāmic.

‛Abd al-Malik's caliphate was followed by those of Walīd I (705-715) and Sulaimān (715-717).

See also Index to Posts on Hans Küng's Der Islam

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Tales of the caliphs: Mu‛āwiya I, founder of the Umayyad dynasty

In a previous post, I discussed the highly contested transition from ‛Alī's caliphate to that of Mu‛āwiya ibn abī Sufyān (Mu‛āwiya I). 

Hans Küng in Der Islam (2004) sees Mu‛āwiya's caliphate as the opening phase of the "Arabian imperial paradigm" of Islām.  He gives the following as the hallmarks of the new era:

Instead of the Companions of the Prophet and the earlier Muslim elite, the dynansty of the Umayyads now ruled for nearly 100 years.  But they had accepted Islām only after the conquest of Mecca, out of opportunism.

Instead of the religion and theology of Islām, the interest of the Umayyad caliphs was concentrated on political leadership and the thoroughly organized administration of the new empire.

Instead of Arabia, Syria is now the leading power politically and religiously.  Here is the holy Jerusalem, here the Jewish and Christian prophets worked, and now the caliphs have their home here.

Instead of the desert city Medina, the Syrian culture-city Damascus is the political center of the Islāmic-Arabic empire and at the same time the capital of Islām:  victory of the urban state over Bedouinism.

Instead of the Sasanian [Persian] traditions, with which the Arabs living in Iran saw themselves confronted, the Byzantine traditions, which the Syrian Arabs had adopted for their own, spread out through the whole empire.

The adoption of the Byzantine traditions which preserved Greek and Roman classical learning would be particularly important for the development of science and philosophy in the Islāmic lands.  And eventually the classical learning would return to western Europe from the Muslim world, largely via al-Andalus (Islāmic Spain).

Mu‛āwiya used Byzantine organizational practices to organize his army and the administration of the empire.  Küng writes that no other caliph was to make such intensive use of the notion of jihad as Mu‛āwiya.  And he used it in the sense of holy war against the unbelievers, not in the sense of striving within oneself to obey God's will (the latter being known as the "greater jihad.")  In Africa, he extended Muslim rule into present-day Tunisia.  In the east, he took control of the province of Khorasan, which includes part of today's northeastern Iran and western Afghanistan.

Mu‛āwiya relied on the Arab tribes for the core of his political support and in the army.  He instituted a Council of Notables and regular tribal delegations that helped him secure political support.  Key positions in the central Syrian bureaucracy were staffed by Christians.  Küng quotes the Nestorian Christian monk John of Phenek praising Mu‛āwiya extravagantly as a defender of peace.  Like many Christians in comparable circumstances today, John may have found it easy to ignore the suffering of those outside the empire caused by the caliph's expansionist jihads.

Interestingly enough, Mu‛āwiya's reputation has supposedly faired badly in pious Islāmic histories of his reign.  The Sunnis regarded his caliphate as having broken the legitimate succession from the four Rightly Guided Caliphs.  The Khāriğites regarded him as illegitimate because he was not selected on chiefly religious grounds.  The Shia, who saw the fourth caliph ‛Alī as the Prophet's only legitimate successor among the first four caliphs, viewed Mu‛āwiya's caliphate as illegitimate for having broken the family and tribal succession stemming from ‛Alī.  The death of ‛Alī's son al-Husain near Kerbala in a battle with the caliph's forces in 680 also gave the Shia an emotion-charged martyr's cult which regarded Mu‛āwiya as a villain.

In his article on Mu‛āwiya in the 2003 Encyclopaedia Britannica (one cited by Küng), Donald Little says of his historical legacy:

Mu'awiyah stands out as one of the few caliphs who is depicted both in Muslim historiography and in modern scholarship as a decisive force in Islamic history. Undoubtedly one reason for the prominence that is assigned to him is that he was a controversial figure. Pious scholars of the dominant Sunnite sect of Islam together with writers of the minority, dissenting Sh'ites, have always heaped opprobriumon Mu'awiyah: the Sunnites because of his deviations from the pattern of leadership set by the Prophet Muhammad and the “rightly guided” caliphs; the Sh'ites because he had usurped the caliphate from 'Ali.

Although Mu'awiyah has been and still is condemned for his sins from these two quarters, he has also been the subject of lavish praise in Arabic literature as the ideal ruler. In other words, unlike most of the other caliphs, Mu'awiyah looms large in Islamic history because he has consistently aroused partisanship at different extremes. But, beneath the biased portraits given in traditional Muslim historiography, there is a person whose actual accomplishments were of great magnitude quite apart from partisan value judgments and interpretations. These accomplishments lay primarily in political and military administration, through which Mu'awiyah was able to rebuild a Muslim state that had fallen into anarchy and to renew the Arab–Muslim military offensive against unbelievers.

Mu‛āwiya was succeeded by his son Yazīd I (680-683) and his grandson Mu‛āwiya II (683).  Then the succession passed to a cousin, Marwān I (684-685).  This entire period and beyond saw the second Muslim civil war (680-692); the civil wars are also known by the name fitnah.  The civil war involved opponents of the Umayyad dynasty, including the Shia and the rival Quraysh clan from Mecca, battling the four successors of Mu‛āwiya I.  During this time, a Sunni counter-caliphate was established in Mecca and the Shia promoted Muhammed ibn al-Hanafīya, ‛Alī's third son, as the Prophet's legitimate successor.

It was during this time that the Shia concept of the Mahdī was born, first used with reference to ‛Alī's son Muhammed.  The concept refers to the leader (caliph or imam) who rightly inherits the Prophet's authority.  It evolved, Küng notes, into an "end times/eschatological meaning"; perhaps a comparison to traditional Christian notions of the return of the Messiah is not out of line.  Depending on which leaders were seen as part of the legitimate series of imams, several schools of belief developed from the Mahdī concept, including the "Fiver" Shia, the "Sevener" Shia or Ismaelites, and the "Twelver" Shia.  The latter was the largest of these schools, especially in  Iran, and the Ayatollah Khomeini of the 20th century was a Twelver Shia.

See also Index to Posts on Hans Küng's Der Islam

Iraq War: Everything's fine, don't worry, be happy

Freedom is on the march.

So, to paraphrase the Wizard of Oz, pay no attention to those doubters behind the curtain.

California's Senator Barbara Boxer recently visited Iraq along with some of her Senate colleagues: Boxer wants deadline for leaving Iraq by John Wildermuth San Francisco Chronicle 03/30/05.  They were in for some surprises:

Boxer spent eight days in Iraq, Kuwait and a handful of other countries as part of a seven-member Senate delegation. She returned to the Bay Area Sunday.

It was a relief to be driving in a car that wasn't armored, she said.

The pervasive security that surrounded not only the Senate delegation, but also the entire U.S. zone, was the biggest shock for Boxer.

The senators flew from Kuwait to Iraq in an Air Force C-130 that took evasive maneuvers on takeoff and landing. In Iraq, they weren't allowed to drive from the airport. Instead, the senators wore helmets and flak jackets as they flew by military helicopter from the Baghdad airport into the U.S. zone, with door gunners on constant alert for an attack by insurgents.

Even on the ground at U.S. headquarters, the senators were surrounded by armed guards and traveled by armored car. Embassy employees and other Americans aren't even free to travel through the supposedly secure Green Zone, but spend most of their time inside the embassy compound, Boxer said.

When the senators went to visit the Iraqi Parliament building in a tightly guarded part of Baghdad, security officers were checking under staircases and in empty rooms as the delegation moved through. When Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, went to the bathroom, she was joined by a female guard, toting a machine gun, Boxer said.

In the Bush administration, they call this "success."

But it sounds like the Iraqi tourist industry may still be slow for awhile, though.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Chuckie Watch 95: Chuckie gits self-reflective

Looks like ole Chuckie's been a'thanking about how folks see him: My, Myself and I 03/28/05.

Chuckie says:

I know that some of the people who read this column think that I am a barely educated, redneck, Bible thumping, opinionated kind of son of gun who is actually proud of his birthplace and his southern heritage and red state philosophy ...

Nah, Chuckie, heck far!  Who woulda' ever thought something like 'at about you?  I cain't believe it!

Some of you think that I’m a warmonger ...

Now, this is amazing.  How could anyone thank Chuckie is a warmonger?

He proceeds to explain what a wonderful thang war is.  Uh, Chuckie, don't that mean that being a warmonger is a good thang?  (ChuckieThought gits pretty deep sometimes.)

As far as being a redneck is concerned, I love football, NASCAR, rodeo and fishing, even got a bass rig. I love hound dogs, horses, bluegrass music, four-wheel drives and I own a whole bunch of guns. And by the way, I’ve never held up a convenient store or shot anybody.

Actually, Chuckie, if we take "redneck" to mean a working-class person - the word comes from working in the sun, which literally makes your neck red - I ain't sure you qualify.  I mean, don't you make yore livin' by playin' music?  Also, not to be picky or anythang.  But does this mean that you might've held up an inconvenient store at some time or the other?

I am truly proud of my Southern heritage, which really tics some of you elitists off. You seem to think that the south is an inbred, uneducated, backward kind of place.

Actually, the people I know who git the most upset by fundamentalist fanatics and blowhard white-guy yawhoos are Southerners.  Somehow, Chuckie, I don't thank you'd be too proud of the Southern heritage that includes people like William Faulkner.  (He's a writer, Chuckie, kind of well known, but he's dead now.)  Or Jimmy Carter - even though you supported him when he ran for President!!!  Chuckie, Chuckie, how did them there Yankee liberals ever sucker you into that?  Dadburn, boy, what was you thankin'?

As far as my beliefs are concerned they are totally and uncompromisingly carved in stone.

So, Chuckie, is that what they mean by "blockhead"?  I guess back when you were a dupe of the liberals and enemies of God and supported Jimmy Carter, you hadn't quite gotten yore stone carving yet.

Yep, that Chuckie, he's a man of deep convictions, ain't he?  And his thankin' is even deeper.

Iraq War: Anthony Cordesman on the insurgency

One of the most informative pieces of analysis I've come across lately on the Iraq War is The Developing Iraqi Insurgency: Status at End-2004 by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS); updated as of 12/22/04 (*.pdf file).

In looking at the situation in Iraq, Cordesman challenges the common notion that disbanding the Iraqi army was an obvious mistake.  In the best case, maintaining the old army would have required recalling the many soldiers who had simply walked away.  And some sort of purge of Baathist loyalists would have been required.

But that doesn't mean he has no criticisms of the action.  On the contrary, he argues:

What is valid criticism is that Ambassador Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), seems to have made this decision after limited consultation with Washington, and that the US formally dissolved the existing army without providing either the Iraqi people or the Iraqi ex-military with any clear or convincing plan to create a new one or to include those who had served in the previous force.  It also excluded former Ba’ath and career officers and personnel who were competent and had simply gone along with the former regime to survive or because of the very national threats that developed during the Iran-Iraq War. If the overall manning of the leadership cadres consisted of timeservers, uniformed bureaucrats, and men seeking their own advantage, there were still many in these cadres that had served with honor in previous wars.

The danger of believing your own propaganda

Cordesman emphasizes the amount of self-deception that was going on among US war planners.  He even uses the V-word, "Vietnam."

The US minimized the insurgent and criminal threat and exaggerated the popular support for US and Coalition efforts. Polls as early asthe summer of 2003 showed that at least one-third of Arab Sunnis while over 15% of Shi’ites supported attacks on Coalition forces. The numbers may now be substantially higher. ...

As a result, the US failed to come to grips with the Iraqi insurgency during the first year of US occupation in virtually every important dimension. It was slow to react to the growth of the insurgency in Iraq, to admit it was largely domestic in character, and to admit it had significant popular support. ... In short, it failed to honestly assess the facts on the ground in a manner reminiscent of Vietnam.

As late as July 2004, the Administration’s senior spokesmen still seemed to live in a fantasyland in terms of their public announcements, perception of the growing Iraqi hostility to the use of Coalition forces, and the size of the threat. They were still talking about a core insurgent force of only 5,000, when many Coalition experts on the ground in Iraq saw the core as at least 12,000-16,000. (my emphasis)

Cordesman points to the need for caution in measuring victories against the insurgents.  At the time this paper was last revised, memories of the Battle of Fallujah were fresh, and it was easier to imagine that it had been a "tipping point."  Cordesman was cautioning that the insurgency was still very much active and that it was hard to see in concrete terms how the undoubtedly US tactical victory in Fallujah had actually damaged the insurgency.

In fact, he makes an even broader conclusion:

These insurgents [Sunni Iraqis and outside fighters] have suffered significant tactical defeats since early 2004, notably in Najaf, Baghdad, Samarra, Fallujah, and Mosul. Nevertheless, US and Iraqi government attempts to root out the insurgency have so far only had limited impact. There is no evidence that number of insurgents is declining as a result of Coalition and Iraqi attacks to date. The number of insurgent attacks has been consistently high since the spring of 2004, although the pattern fluctuates over time.

His section on the insurgency itself concludes that most of the insurgents are Sunni Iraqis, with some foreign jihadists/terrorists.  He dismissed the Interim Government's claims that most Iraqi provinces were secure:

The present level of the threat in Iraq is all too real, and Iraqi Interim Government claims  that some 16 of Iraq's provinces are secure are clearly untrue. ...

No province is safe from occasional attack, and attacks are only part of the story.

There is continuing sabotage of key targets like Iraq’s oil facilities, and a constant campaign of intimidation, disappearances, and "mystery killings." Even cities that were supposedly liberated before the battle of Fallujah, like Samarra, have been the source of enough continuing attacks to force the redeployment of large numbers of Iraqi security and police forces and elements of key US counterinsurgency units like Task Force 1-26.

He notes that the insurgency, both domestic and foreign fighters, have proved themselves very adaptable to changing US tactics.

Cordesman in this paper viewed the training of Iraq military, paramilitary and police to be a long haul.  He emphasizes that the insurgents obviously have very good "human intelligence" on US and Iraqi operations, much of it provided by disloyal elements in the existing Iraqi forces.  He warns against trying to use the number of Iraqi security personnel as a measure of their effectiveness:

There is no way to quantify how the development of Iraqi military, security, and police forces has kept pace with the development of effective Iraqi government forces. In any case, numerical comparisons are largely pointless. The ratio of security forces to insurgents sometimes has to reach levels of 12:1 through 30:1 in order to provide security in a given area, while in other cases, a small number of security forces can decapitate a movement or cell and end it. In any case, intangibles like the battle for political perceptions and "hearts and minds" are often far more critical than the numbers of insurgents and defenders.

This article on the Iraqi forces quotes Cordesman taking a seemingly more optimistic tone, although it doesn't seem to contradict what he was writing in December: Iraqi troop training: signs of progress by Peter Grier Christian Science Monitor 03/29/05.  Despite the title, the article has a good analysis showing why it's necessary to be skeptical of the numbers game the administration has been playing in this area.

(It's always good to keep in mind at this point, too, that independent reporting from Iraq is pretty scarce.  The security is so bad, most reporters are severely restricted in their movements even within Baghdad.  Nancy Pelosi recently took a Congressional delegation to Baghdad.  Because of the disastrous security situation, they were only allowed to go to the heavily-fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, and weren't even allowed to stay in the country overnight. Congressional delegation see progress in Iraq by Edward Epstein San Francisco Chronicle 03/26/05; you have to wonder if the headlines wasn't meant to be ironic.

Juan Cole recently called attention to the fact that the Pentagon is saying that now there are around 60 insurgent attacks a day in Iraq, and asks, "By the way, if there are 60 attacks a day, why do I only read about 7 or 8 of them?" See No Government and 16 Dead, Informed Comment blog 03/28/05.)

In the December paper, Cordesman also includes a good reminder about what patrolling the borders of Iraq means:

Iraq’s borders total: 3,650 kilometers in length: Iran 1,458 kilometers, Jordan 181 kilometers, Kuwait 240 kilometers, Saudi Arabia 814 kilometers, Syria 605 kilometers, and Turkey 352 kilometers. Most of these borders are desert, desolate territory, easily navigable water barriers, or mountains. Even Iraq’s small 58-kilometer coastline is in an area with considerable small craft and shipping traffic and presents security problems. Insurgents also do not need major shipments of arms. As a result, virtually anyone can go in and out moving money and small critical supplies, and volunteers can simply enter as ordinary visitors without equipment. Even if Iraq’s border forces were ready, and its neighbors actively helped, border security would be a problem. (my emphasis)

Lessons from the Iraq War

Cordesman also lists a number of factors that US forces and war planners are processing and from which they are trying to learn lessons.  Some of the ones that particular stand out in his paper for me are the following:

Experts have long pointed out that one of the key differences between Islamist extremist terrorism and previous forms of terrorism is that they are not seeking to negotiate with those they terrorize, but rather to create conditions that can drive the West away, undermine secular and moderate regimes in the Arab and Islamic worlds, and create the conditions under which they can create "Islamic" states according to their own ideas of "Puritanism."

I would add that while that is the goal of the jihadists, that doesn't mean than none of them would negotiate ever under any circumstance.  Politics is politics, after all.

The following is a good brief description of how atrocities and dramatically horrible attacks can be used by the insurgents, and the risks for the US in trying to deal with guerrilla/terrorist tactics through conventional warfare response, e.g., bombing cities, which is still going on, more than two years into the war:

Such [dramatic] actions [by insurgents] also breed anger and alienation in the US and the West and to provoke excessive political and media reactions, more stringent security measures, violent responses, and all of the other actions that help provoke a "clash of civilizations." The US and the West are often provoked into playing into the hands of such attackers.

At the same time, any attack or incident that provokes massive media coverage and political reactions appears to be a "victory" to those who support Islamist extremism or those who are truly angry at the US – even though the actual body count is often low, and victory does not mean creating stronger forces or winning political control. Each such incident can be used to damage the US and Western view of the Arab and Islamic worlds. (my emphasis)

The following observation is a welcome relief from the conventional, superficial military whining about the effects of media on the "will" of the home front:

Terrorists and insurgents have found they can use the media, rumor, and conspiracy theories to exploit the fact the US often fights a military battle without proper regard to the fact it is also fighting a political, ideological, and psychological war.

Real incidents of US misconduct such as the careless treatment of detainees and prisoners, and careless and excessive security measures are cases in point. So too are careless political and media rhetoric by US officials and military officers.

Bin Laden, the Iraqi insurgents, etc., all benefit from every Western action that unnecessarily angers or frustrates the Arab and Islamic worlds. They are not fighting to influence Western or world opinion; they are fighting a political and psychological war to dominate Iraq and the  Arab and Islamic worlds. (my emphasis)

Cordesman notes that one tactic the insurgency is using to sabotage economic projects just after they are completed.  This means the US and the Interim Government get only minimum benefit from the projects after the large expenditures.  "They also often led the local population to blame the Coalition or government for not keeping promises or providing the proper protection."

He discusses various ways in which the guerrillas utilize low-tech methods to evade detection.  Referring to one of the Pentagon's current favorite buzzwords in "military transformation," he writes:  "While it is nice to talk about netcentric warfare, it is a lot harder to get a big enough net."  As in all wars, the exciting new technology that is put on display turns out not to be quite the wonder-workers that they may have seemed to be at first.

The following is an especially interesting point.  The Pentagon, learning one of many wrong lessons from the Vietnam War, doesn't provide civilian "body counts."  This allows the Air Force in particular to claim that their bombing of urban centers is more "surgical" and precise in every war.  One of Rummy's more disgusting moments - and there have been a lot of them - was when he raved on before the cameras about the "care" and "humanity" that went into selecting bombing targets.  Well, it turns out that the insurgents are able to use the Pentagon's deliberate ignorance in not measuring casualties accurately to their advantage:

Iraqi insurgents, and other Islamist extremists learned that US intelligence is optimized around characterizing, counting, and targeting things, rather than people, and the US has poor capability to measure and characterize infantry and insurgent numbers, wounded, and casualties. They exploit these weaknesses in dispersal, in conducting attacks, in concealing the extent of losses, and in manipulating the media by claiming civilian casualties and collateral damage.

Finally, this observation on the problems of HUMINT (human intelligence sources) in Iraq is not new to me.  But he gives good expression to what a serious problem it is, especially when you add in the fact that so few Americans there speak Arabic.  He also uses the V-word again:

Like Vietnam, Iraq is a warning that hostile HUMINT sources are often pushed into providing data because of family ties, a fear of being on the losing side, direct and indirect threats, etc. In Iraq's case, it seems likely that family, clan, and ethnic loyalties have made many supposedly loyal Iraqis become at least part time sources, and that US vetting will often be little more than either a review of past ties or checks on the validity of data being provided. The end result may be an extremely high degree of transparency on US, Iraqi government, aid, and every other aspect of Iraqi operations. This will often provide excellent targeting data on key US and allied officials, events, etc. It can include leverage and blackmail, and vulnerability data, as well as warning of US and other military operations. Dual loyalty and HUMINT penetration of Iraqi security and military forces may be the rule, rather than the exception. (my emphasis)

The advantage of papers like this is that Cordesman is a careful and respected analyst of military affairs.  But he's not simply recycling administration spin.  He's trying to understand what is really going on, and what lessons can be learned from it.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Iraq War: More on the Sgrena case

I've just seen a new twist on the Giuliana Sgrena case.  Sgrena is the Italian journalist who was shot by American troops after being rescued from Iraqi hostage-takers by Italian security.  The Italian agent Nicolo Calipari was killed in the attack.

This article presents some claims by Sgrena that I haven't seen before: There Was No Checkpoint, There Was No Self-Defense by Jeremy Scahill, 03/28/05.

According to Scahill's article, Sgrena is now saying that there was no checkpoint at all.  Instead, she claims that a group of American soldiers off the road started firing at the car with no warning.  She also says that the Americans fired at the car from the side and behind, and that the bullet that hit her came from behind.

The article also says that the US is still refusing to allow the Italians to examine the car.  Which certainly sounds suspicious, if that's correct.

I wish I could read Italian to be able to follow this story in the Italian papers.  This could turn out to be a bigger mess than it already looked to be.

See also: Naomi Klein Reveals New Details About U.S. Military Shooting of Italian War Correspondent in Iraq (Interview with Amy Goodman) Democracy Now! 03/25/05.

Democracy on the march in Egypt?

I've been thinking about doing a post on the whole democracy-promotion thing that's the Bush administration's latest slogan.  Well, until the supposed wave of democratic reform in the Middle East starts going south, at which time we'll switch to something else.  Hey, maybe we could make "combating weapons of mass destruction" the lead slogan!

Obviously, this is a huge subject.  And there is no perfect formula that can't be misused or act as the cover for cynical power politics.

Part of the problem with the whole idea, though, is that there has always been a contradiction in America between the country's faith in democracy as an ideal and the need to promote the national interest in a world in which nation-states with different forms of government were major players.

Just think of the American Revolution itself.  Americans were English colonists.  American notions of democracy, for all the varied sources, didn't come out of studying classical texts about ancient Athens.  It came from the experience of representative government in the colonies and a sense that British citizens in the colonies should enjoy the same kind of representation that British citizens in the homeland enjoyed.

So a democratic revolution based on British ideas of government allied itself with monarchical France to make war against Britain, which had a restricted but real parliamentary government.  Overwhelmingly Protestant America allied with Catholic France against Protestant Britain.  Shared values are important, and some of the French supporters of the American Revolution (like Lafayette) were also sympathetic to American democratic values.

But interests are also important.  And during the Revolutionary War, the fact that monarchical France had antagonistic interests to Britain meant that the success of democratic revolution and national independence in America meant allying with an unquestionably reactionary power and not worrying too much about the fact that France didn't share our political values much beyond "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."  Supporting democracy and independence in American at that time meant supporting alliance with a France who didn't support or practice democracy.

And, of course, there was the genuine problem that the ideals of the Declaration of Independence were being championed by a country that practiced chattel slavery.  In the decades that followed, the democrats of the world found their enthusiasm for the American system limited by the growth and incresing belligerency associated with that "peculiar institution."

Ther eare plenty of other instances in American history and in current policy.  And sometimes the difference between balancing contradictory priorities and crass hypocrisy is a very thin one.

Here are a couple of articles relating to the problems of one of the alleged sites of the democratic movement that Bush's war of liberation (and to destroy nonexistent WMDs) in Iraq suposedly inspired.

Egypt reins in democratic voices by Dan Murphy Christian Science Monitor 03/28/05 discusses recent moves by Hosni Mubarak's government to suppress renewed political activity by the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Brothers over the last several decades have been one of the main sources of the Islamic fundamentalist movement.  Militant Muslim Brothers like Sayyid Qutb have provided ideas and inspiration for the present-day jihadist movement.

Yet it is also one of the most popular political organizations in Egypt.  And even assuming that the United States doesn't intend to directly intervene in Egyptian politics, US policymakers should be considering whether we can live with an Islamicist government in Egypt led by the Muslim Brotherhood.  Would taking power make them more militant and autocratic?  Would they give active support to anti-American terrorists?  Or would they take a more pragmatic approach?

The status quo has its own risks.  The Egyptian government has encouraged an increased Islamization of society in the last three decades or so.  But they also suppress the Muslim fundamentalist movement, as exemplified by the Muslim Brotherhood in particular.  If America is seen as a supporter of that suppression, what does that do to our exposure to further terrorist attacks?  How does it affect our relations with other Islamic governments?  Do Shia governments like Iran's or the one that we're in the process of installing in Iraq look favorably on the US backing the suppression of Sunni fundamentalists like the Brothers?  What about the 90% of the Muslim world that's Sunni?

John Dean recently looked at the political situation in Egypt with its alleged move toward more democracy in light of its implications for US policy: Will Changing the Egyptian Constitution's Election System Really Foster Democracy?: Why Egypt-Watchers Don't Think So by John Dean, 03/25/05.

Dean defines the pragmatic problem with Bush's announced policy of pushing for democratization in the Middle East:

In his Second Inaugural Address, President Bush declared that the central purpose of his second term would be to promote democracy and end tyranny everywhere. It was pure neoconservatism. As Dimitri Simes -- who is not a neo-con, but rather heads the Nixon Center, a foreign policy think tank -- said, "If Bush means it literally, then it means we have an extremist in the White House."

Since then, Bush has continued his call for democracy - especially in the Middle East. This radical policy of the United States telling other countries how to govern themselves has been created out of the ashes of his Iraq policy. Indeed, it is based on the same sort of poor intelligence and weak analysis that produced phantom weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and a fantasy connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

Bush has merely substituted his unsupported (and unsupportable) claim that Middle Eastern democracy will end the threat of terror for his baseless rationale for expending blood and treasure in Iraq. While Bush can impose democracy on Iraq as an occupying power, gunpoint democracy is not exactly contagious. And we don't have enough guns to end tyranny everywhere.

As far as the neoconservative vision and the notion of imposing democracy by military force, I think Dean is right in his general observation.  But there are ways that the United States can promote human rights and democracy - and has done so in the past - without relying on wars of liberation and the threat of them.  Even without a "Wilsonian" perspective, there are good practical reasons for paying attention to issues of how other countries are governed.

But Dean explains in the case of Egypt why the cosmetic reforms that Mubarak has announced and that Bush and his fans are holding up as part of the success story of the Bush Doctrine are less than the White House is making them out to be.  In particular, the promise to open up this year's presidential election is little more than window-dressing designed to make Mubarak's continuation in power look superficially more legitimate.  The nature of the requirements to qualify as a presidential candidate mean, in practice, "means Mubarak can control the outcome of the election," writes Dean.

He concludes his article as follows:

"We are happy to take American money to provide Israel with a buffer state in this Arab world," I was told by one politically sophisticated Egyptian. "We are a good investment for the United States to protect its interest in Israel," he added. "But if George Bush thinks he can force democracy on Egypt, and the Middle East, he's dumber than I thought he was, and unlike many of my countrymen, I never thought he was dumb."

An American expatriate, who has lived in Cairo for several decades, told me, "Bush's effort to take credit for the democratic thinking emerging in the Middle East is actually counterproductive. Arabs so dislike the man, they find him so hypocritical, so offensive and arrogant, that he is more likely to cause the Middle East, including Egypt, to do exactly the opposite of what he claims he wants."

In summary, I found little, if any reason, to believe there is much prospect for Democracy in Egypt at this time. Testifying to this fact is that I feel compelled to protect the identity of my many sources, the people who were willing to openly discuss this matter with me. The reason is that I fear for their well-being; they live in a country where speaking your mind can get you in deep trouble. And without open debate, what kind of democracy can emerge?

Democracy may be on the march.  But what's happening in the Middle East right now is not looking at the moment to be a new version of eastern Europe, 1989-90.

See also:

The Beirut Wall Isn't Falling by Fred Kaplan Slate 03/10/05
Playing the Democracy Card by Dilip Hiro (introduction by Tom Engelhardt) 03/17/05
Afghanistan: Media Black Hole by Sonali Kolhatkar, 03/26/05

And this is *respectable* Republican commentary...

A lot of conservatives, even some who seem to imagine themselves to be possessed of sound judgment, take Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institute seriously as a writer. I don't quite know why. Maybe there was a time when he wrote something other than "middlebrow" Republican propaganda.

One of his recent columns, America's new discontents 03/22/05, is really a bunch of insults aimed at Democrats strung together in a flimsy frame of a narrative. I know that for the foreseeable future, there is going to be more money paying for these sorts of articles than for Democratic, liberal or moderate rejoinders. But it's kind of amazing that people claim to take him seriously as an analyst of political affairs.

Still, it is a thing of some wonder to behold.

Judging from this column, Hanson appears to think that a large part of the American public (hint, hint: he could mean Democrats!) have lost "faith in the values of the West." And that multiculturalism is a trendy fad. Does he expect mass emigration of Latinos and African-Americans sometime soon? And that American schools teach that all cultures are the same and therefore no American should criticize Cuba or Iran. (?!?)

In whatever movie he's watching, there are a bunch of "utopian elites" who feel vaguely guilty about something and are running around trashing US culture. I mean, cults are a problem, but are they really that bad?

He thinks George Soros is an enemy of the common people. And he holds it against the folks who run that they are "neither poor nor oppressed." Not that I've heard them claim to be either. And apparently the "upper-middle classes" (whoever those might be exactly) are out there in the suburbs and the gated communities practicing "strident anti-Americanism." And somehow, I don't think he means to say that they're anti-American because they support illegal preventive wars and torture in the gulag.

He gathers steam and ascends farther into the clouds as he rolls along. He seems to think that Al Qaeda - well, I can't quite tell what he thinks. Apparently, "nihilists" of that gated community America-hater crowd admire Islamic terrorists because they (the gated community nihilists) are full of "self-doubt and anti-Americanism." He seems to think these stark raving nihilists admire Al Qaeda because they've confused them with "romantic communists."

I'm getting curious to see these nihilist communist guilt-ridden self-doubting America-haters who live in the Hammer-and-Sickle Gated Community and the Red Star Luxury Condominiums. Gee, I wonder if they're any of them here in the San Francisco Bay Area? I've never come across any such strange specimens.

Apparently the Red Star condo crowd like Ward Churchill. And Michael Moore supports beheading people. (?!?) Then there's something about how they wouldn't like Al Qaeda or the Taliban in the government but somehow they feel all guilty about them anyway. Or something.

I'm already lost. But there's more. It seems we had to go to war in Iraq because of "fuzzy relativism." As opposed to precise, crystal-clear relativism. Ted Kennedy thought there was torture going on at Abu Ghuraib. Gosh, how could he have gotten such an idea? John Kerry seemed to think that the American choice for interim prime minister in Iraq was pro-American. All the problems with Iran are Bill Clinton's fault. (You knew Bill Clinton had to come in here somewhere!)

The Red Star condo community want the US to fail in the Middle East. Fail at exactly what I'm not so sure. But it has something to do with postmodernism. Nancy Soderberg (don't feel bad; I won't remember who she is either after I post this) thinks Bush's foreign policy isn't perfect. And the cynical, guilt-ridden, bitter, America-haters at Hammer-and-Sickleville also hate women in Afghanistan. And store owners in Lebanon. And Kurds.

And this guy is one of the sober Republican flaks!

George McGovern on patriotism

I realize lots of Republicans and all Bush-Patriotically-Correct war lovers think that George McGovern is a terrible person several times over.  Ask me how much I care.

McGovern, now in his 80s, has a good piece in the Nation (03/24/05; in the 04/11/05 issue; link is to called Patriotism Is Nonpartisan: Challenging a Mistaken War Can Take More Courage than Fighting One.

Patriotism is nonpartisan.  What a quaint notion.  How many of today's Republicans can even process that concept?

McGovern had firsthand experience, especially during the Nixon administration, of confronting the poisonous notion that patriotism equals supporting the Republican Party and whatever its war policies are at any given moment.  Nixon and his vice-president Spiro Agnew propagated this kind of emotionally polarizing politics, in the process inventing such favorite phony chestnuts of the drooling-at-the-mouth superpatriots as the notion that antiwar protesters were hostile to soldiers during the Vietnam War.  The Nixon/Agnew disciples of the Bush administration have carried it to a whole new level.

McGovern writes:

There has not been a day in my life that I would not have proudly sacrificed that life in the defense of America. Following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, as a college sophomore, I promptly volunteered for the Army Air Corps and flew thirty-five missions as the pilot of a B-24 bomber. Half of the bomber crews flying with me did not survive the war, including my navigator and dear friend Sam Adams of Milwaukee. That was a terrifying, destructive war, but I have never experienced an hour of regret over my part in helping to smash Hitler’s ruthless war machine. America had no honorable course except to halt the worldwide, murderous aggression of the Axis powers—including the unspeakable Holocaust that murdered 6 million Jews. ...

But looking back on those early years after eighteen years in the Senate and as a presidential nominee, I am as proud of my effort to stop the needless slaughter in Vietnam as I am of my participation in World War II. In both cases, I was guided by patriotism and love of my country. But men who had never known a day of military combat worked ceaselessly—especially in 1972—to paint me as a weakling  unwilling to defend the nation. Of course, I did not stand alone in opposing the looming disaster in Asia. Such senators as Fulbright, Mansfield, Church, Gruening, Morse, Nelson and Hatfield were adamantly against the war. But I was also seeking the presidency, which made me a special target of the war exponents. ...

Old-fashioned American liberals such as I are accused not only of being weak on defense but also weak on marriage and the family, the work ethic and reverence for religious faith. I resent such groundless political slurs. After all, I hold the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I have been happily married to the same woman for sixty-one years and am the father of five children and ten grandchildren—all of whom I love dearly, including dear, deceased Terry. As the son of a Wesleyan Methodist clergyman, I dare say that my life has always been enriched and guided by the Judeo-Christian ethic. Nothing has influenced my philosophy more than the Hebrew prophets and the Sermon on the Mount. Beyond this, I have worked hard at useful tasks throughout my life and thank God I still have the health and motivation to continue that work schedule at the age of 82. Of course, I share one of my father’s oft-quoted biblical lines: “All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

Unfortunately, the Tom DeLays and Dick Cheneys and Karl Roves of the world don't care at all about sensible observations like this.  And I'm sure that George McGovern knows that better than most of us.  In his 1980 run for reelection to the Senate, he was targeted by Christian Right zealots who used such tactics as leafleting the cars at his church when he was attending services calling him a baby-killer.

But I'm certainly glad to see that he's still making good sense, and that he still cares enough about his country and the world to try to improve things in whatever ways he can.  Whether good sense can win out over fear and hatred and religious fanaticism remains to be seen.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Iraq War: Will Congress ever do its job?

We've seen in the Terri Schiavo case that the Republican-dominated House and Senate can move quickly and decisively - albeit foolishly in that particular case - when there's an issue afoot that they really care about.

Things aren't working that way when it comes to Bush's grand adventure in Mesopotamia.  Historian James Carter asks in this article: Is Congress AWOL on Iraq? History News Network 03/07/05.

The short answer: yes.

Carter gives a good, brief summary of the Congressional investigations that took place in the 1960s into the conduct of the Vietnam War.  During the Johnson administration, these involved a Democratic Congress holding hearings that often embarrassed the Democratic President, because they considered the issue sufficiently important to override partisan considerations to a significant extent.

He also summarizes how today's Republican Congress is handling things:

The fact is that the committees of jurisdiction have so far refused to conduct proper investigations because they might shed some unfavorable light on the administration’s debacle in Iraq. While several congressional committees have conducted investigations into the much more politically useful oil-for-food program scandal, not a single hearing has been held to examine the mismanagement, corruption and allegations of outright fraud of its successor, the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), an entity the U.S. government has invested with billions of taxpayer dollars and also controls. Those involved charge the DFI has misappropriated many millions and there is little or no oversight or record keeping. The majority-controlled congressional committees have so far refused to conduct legitimate hearings that would give these matters the proper venue and the proper visibility.

These trends seem likely to continue. Bush administration officials are increasingly bold in their refusal to submit to the Congress. A few days following the above ad-hoc hearings, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld refused to give details, refused to answer questions and abruptly collected his papers and left hearings before the House Armed Service Committee.

Maybe if the Christian Right hears that abortions are becoming more frequent in Iraq, their friends in Congress will start to look at the conduct of the Iraq War more closely.

Iraq War: Conservative antiwar sentiment

What's with the rightwing advocates of "supply-side" economics being down on Bush's grand adventure in Mesopotamia?

Via "pessimist" at the Left Coaster blog, I came across this post by longtime conservative stalwart and former Business Week columnist Paul Craig Roberts: Nothing to Fear But Bush Himself Counterpunch 02/12-13/05.

Roberts uses from fairly, shall we say, "shrill" rhetoric about the Iraq War.  Describing Bush, Dick Chaney, Rummy, Paul Wolfowitz and Condi-Condi as "the Five Morons", he writes:

You see [according to the Five], the facts that the US invaded Iraq on false pretenses, killed and maimed tens of thousands of Iraqis, shot down women and children in the streets, blew up Iraqis' homes, hospitals and mosques, cut Iraqis off from vital services such as water and electricity, destroyed the institutions of civil society, left half the population without means of livelihood, filled up prisons with people picked up off the streets and then tortured and humiliated them for fun and games are not facts that explain why there is an insurgency. These facts [according to the Five] are just descriptions of collateral damage associated with America "bringing democracy to Iraq." ...

Why didn't Americans realize that it is dangerous to put a buffoon [he means Bush] in charge of the US government who hasn't a clue about the world around him, what he is doing or the consequences of his actions?

I'm a little surprised at the amount of ridicule he employs.  Although given his history as a polemicist, I probably sholdn't be.  I must admit it's hard to argue with the following observation.  (Especially since I've been saying pretty much the same thing.)

... [T]he US has proven to the world that it cannot occupy Baghdad,much less Iraq...
What is the point of the Bush administration's bellicosity when it has been conclusively demonstrated that the US has insufficient troops to successfully occupy Iraq, much less Syria and Iran? The American people should be scared to death that they have put in power such deluded people. ...

This point shouldn't be overlooked.  As reckless as they are, the Bush team is severely limited in what they can actually do militarily against Syria and Iran.  And that's not just because of public and international disapproval.  Without a massive draft, they simply don't have the troops to make much of a credible threat.  And if they try to substitute air power to attack one or both those countries, they can retaliate by pushing to escalate guerrilla attacks in Iraq.  Iran could even intervene directly in Iraq in that situation.

Roberts at least recognizes that the economic aspects of the Bush Doctrine are sadly deficient in practice:

The US Treasury is empty. The once "almighty" dollar is tottering. The US military is stretched to the breaking point. Former allies look askance at America. Hatred of America has reached an all time high. ...

But here's a definite conservative twist: they hate us because of sex!

By its behavior the Bush administration is confirming Osama bin Laden's propaganda and breeding more terrorists. Much better to address the causes of Muslim discontent--America's enabling of the Israeli government's mistreatment and dispossession of the Palestinians, and America's export of "culture" that glorifies the sexual promiscuity of women. [my emphasis]

And I never quite know what to make of criticisms worded this way:

It does not serve America for Bush to impose Ariel Sharon's agenda on the Middle East. Bush's insane policy ... has managed to create a Shi'ite crescent from Iran to Lebanon.

On the one hand, it's true that the Bush administration tends to back Sharon's Likud Party hard line on the Israeli-Palestine dispute.  But this makes it sound like the White House is taking orders from sinister Jews in Tel Aviv.  It would be closer to the facts to say they are taking order from delusional zealots of the Christian Right who weirdly support an Israeli hardline because they think it will hasten then end of the world and the slaughter of most of the Jews in the world.

But the recognition that we're helping to boost the organized power of Shia Islam in the Middle East is accurate, and one that Congress should be paying a lot more attention to.  That is, if they weren't too busy trying to phase out Social Security and pandering to the Christian Right over the Schiavo case.

Another Republican supply-side luminary from the 1980s, Jude Wanniski, also holds forth on the problems of the Bush Doctrine on Al Jazeera's Web site (Al Jazeera?!?): America's gunboat diplomacy by Jude Wanniski, Al Jazeera Online 03/25/05.

Wanniski accurately notes that much of the outlook behind the Bush Doctrine was the unwholesome spawn of the Nixon administration:

To appreciate the ironies of the moment, we can recollect that the outlines of President Bush's call for a worldwide democratic crusade were hatched a dozen years ago by the intellectuals around him.

These were the young men chosen by president Nixon for his foreign-policy team: Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Cheney, the elder George Bush; and the "neo-cons" who were nominally Democrats: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, James Woolsey.

But though Wanniski is clearly critical of the Bush Doctrine, his criticism is more measured, and less scornful, than Roberts'

... As an admirer of Nixon's world-view, I've often believed that he would not have followed the course plotted by the neo-cons in subsequent years, which has left us with such a mess today. ...

Nixon's followers obviously ignored the old man's counsel when they devised their Project for a New American Century in 1994, whichwas an explicit design for a New World Order based on the exercise of America's economic and military might.

There's certainly plenty for conservative members of the reality-based community to criticize about Bush's foreign policy.  And, as I've mentioned here, some of their points are good ones.  Still, politics makes strange bedfellows, as the old saying goes.  And conservative criticism of the Iraq War is not all coming from the same perspective.  Some Pat Buchanan-type conservatives see it as a Jewish conspiracy.  Others may just be opportunistically trying to distance themselves from an obvious disaster.  Still others may be rightwing isolationists who may be just as militaristic and as hostile to international law as the neoconservatives but just think the Iraq War is a bad bet.

In a related vein, a friend of mine last week called my attention to this article, which discusses the worries of Paul Craig Roberts, Justin Raimondo and the obnoxious neo-Confederate Lew Rockwell (who tries to pass himself off as a "libertarian") that the Bush administration is headed for fascism:  Hunger for Dictatorship: War to export democracy may wreck our own by Scott McConnell American Conservative 03/14/05.

Chuckie Watch 94: Chuckie thanks Republican judges are enemies of God

Of course, Chuckie had to weigh in on the Terri Schiavo case: God's Business 03/25/05.  And, as us regular Chuckie readers would have expected, Chuckie don't waste no time on compassionate thoughts for the dilemmas of those involved.

After a little foaming at the mouth about the ACLU - which seems to be a particular bugaboo for Chuckie; maybe he's still upset about how they were advocating for school integration fifty years ago? - Chuckie starts looking at what these here judges have been up to.

And Chuckie don't like it.

Chuckie says:

Why are the judges so anxious to kill her? ...

And who will be playing God in these cases-why the judges, of course.

It is obvious to anybody who is willing to be reasonable that our judicial system is totally out of control, ignoring not only congressional directives but the wishes of the people they are sworn to serve. ...

Did you ever wonder why the Ted Kennedys and Barbara Boxers are trying so hard to block the President’s judicial nominations?

Well stop and consider this, they know they can’t get their radical programs through the Senate and Congress, but if they can put activist judges on the bench they can accomplish their socialist, humanist programs by coming through the back door.

Uh, Chuckie, there's only one small problem with all this.  Most of the judges who have been deciding in favor of discontinuing the life support are Republicans.  (See "Down with the judicial tyrants who are killing Terri Schiavo!: Oops -- most of them are Republican. Never mind." by Joe Conason Salon 03/25/05). 

A number of bloggers (at Daily Kos and other sites) have been commenting on the rightwing theme of defying the courts' authority and substituting mob rule in the Schiavo case.  This is the authoritarian side of today's Republican Party, which looks so much like the hardcores of the Southern Democratic Party during the segregation years.  Use the courts and the cops to impose the will of the White People's Party when you can;use mob rule and vigilante violence when that doesn't work.

Chuckie doesn't exactly advocate vigilante violence in this rant.  But by denouncing conservative Republican judges as atheist socialist agents of Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer, he's encouraging the mob-rule mentality.  For blowhard Southern white guys like Chuckie, this is no doubt a reminder of the good old days when men were men, wimmin were women and the "nigras" knew their place.

As unpopular as this grandstanding over the Schiavo case has been, nothing today's Radical Republicans do seems to be too extreme for Chuckie.  Heck, he even thinks Republican judges are socialists!

And speaking of the segregation days, Brother Jeb made a move in the Schiavo case that Ross Barnett or Orville Faubus would have been proud of: Fla. officials' attempt, fail to seize Schiavo by Carol Marbin Miller, Knight-Ridder 03/25/05.  State officials showed up to remove Terri Schiavo from the hospice in defiance of court orders.  Local law enforcement on the scene refused to let them in.  Jeb's storm troopers backed off.  (See also Steve Gilliard Going all in 03/26/05).

Like I've been saying, today's national Republican Party is the Southern Democratic Party of 40-50 years ago.  The Deep South states defied court orders on desegregation for years.  Now the Florida branch of the Bush dynasty is adopting the same John C. Calhoun approach to government.

Chuckie must be proud.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Jerry Brown on the Terri Schiavo case

As I predicted, Jerry Brown's new blog is turning out to be a provocative and interesting one.  Not much Nostradamus in that prediction though.  That was a slam-dunk forecast.

Jerry, who is running for California state attorney general in 2006, has weighed in on the Schiavo case:  Florida vs. Texas 03/23/05.  He points out that, while the controversy over Terri Schiavo has raged, a six-month-old boy in Texas, Sam Hudson, died after being removed from life support against his mother's wishes.  This was done pursuant to a law Gov. George W. Bush - the man who errs on the side of life except when it comes to war, the death penalty and people in Texas - signed into law.

Brown frames the issue this way:

The very different treatment of Terri Schiavo in Florida from that of Sun Hudson in Texas raises questions about what principles are actually driving these actions:

1) A juridical right to life

2) Marital and family values requiring deference to the appropriate family member charged with end-of-life decisions

3) State authority versus federal, congressional or judicial decision making

4) Political  exploitation of fundamentalist convictions

Brown links to the Arizona Baxter Bulletin, which editorialized as follows (Ambitious politicians, public scrutiny rob Schiavo of dignity 03/25/05; apparently the link was added to the original post, which is dated 3/23):

What's happened here is politicians trying to advance their own agendas on Mrs. Schiavo's frail back. Those congressmen who supported going around the court system hadn't read the case record, they hadn't read Mrs. Schiavo's medical records, they really didn't know or understand the situation. They just used her as an emotional springboard for their own causes, the key word being "used."

Rather than helping Mrs. Schiavo, politicians, from the White House to the Florida legislature, have done her more harm than good. ...

All the politicians have succeeded in doing is show how they're willing to do anything and use anyone to further their own purposes.

In the meantime, Mrs. Schiavo is paraded before the public, her privacy in what should be the most private time stolen from her. Images of her lying in her hospital bed flash across TV screens regularly. Political pundits of all stripes bandy her name about in vain on talk shows. Her dignity has been stripped away.

A case such as Mrs. Schiavo's is a personal issue, a family issue, and politicians and the public should keep their noses out of it.

Brown doesn't maintain a blogroll on his site.  But I notice in this post he mentioned the discussion on the Schiavo case from three blogs:  Daily Kos, Sue Bob's Diary (definitely a right-leaning blog!) and Lean Left.

Iraq War: Army to soldiers - It's okay to murder prisoners

"I wouldn't join the International Criminal Court. It's a body based in The Hague where unaccountable judges and prosecutors can pull our troops or diplomats up for trial.

"And I wouldn't join it. And I understand that in certain capitals around the world that that wasn't a popular move. But it's the right move not to join a foreign court that could -- where our people could be prosecuted." - George W. Bush 09/30/04

"Men without conscience are capable of any cruelty the human mind can imagine." - Dick Cheney 01/26/05

Nothing good comes of this: Pentagon Will Not Try 17 G.I.'s Implicated in Prisoners' Deaths by Douglas Jehl New York Times 03/26/05.

Despite recommendations by Army investigators, commanders have decided not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, according to a new accounting released Friday by the Army.

Investigators had recommended that all 17 soldiers be charged in the cases, according to the accounting by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. The charges included murder, conspiracy and negligent homicide. While none of the 17 will face any prosecution, one received a letter of reprimand and another was discharged after the investigations.

To date, the military has taken steps toward prosecuting some three dozen soldiers in connection with a total of 28 confirmed or suspected homicides of detainees. The total number of such deaths is believed to be between 28 and 31.

In one of the three cases in which no charges are to be filed, the commanders determined the death to be "a result of a series of lawful applications of force." In the second, the commanders decided not to prosecute because of a lack of evidence. In the third, they determined the soldier involved had not been well informed of the rules of engagement.

We shouldn't kid ourselves about the iceberg of which this is a tip.  The Iraq War, combined with the lawless preferences of the Bush administratio, is wrecking discipline in the Army.  It may take the Army much longer to recover from this debacle than it did from the Vietnam War.  Anyone who thinks this is a sign of being "tough on terrorism" has their head buried in the sand.

This is probably the most telling comment in the whole story.  The Pentagon has clowns like this go out and make transparently dishonest statements and then whines that it's "the media" that created their credibility gap:

A spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command, Chris Grey, said in a statement: "We take each and every death very seriously and are committed and sworn to investigating each case with the utmost professionalism and thoroughness. We are equally determined to get to the truth wherever the evidence may lead us and regardless of how long it takes."

One of the deaths involved an Iraqi lieutenant colonel who died in captivity from "blunt force injuries and asphyxia."  In other words, they beat his head in and strangled him with a baton while he was gagged.  No prosecutions.

In another case, a soldier just shot a prisoner to death.  The Army concluded that he hadn't been well informed of the rules of engagement.  No prosecution.  If you shoot somebody in your neighborhood for having a muffler that's too loud or something, try telling the cops that you weren't informed of the laws about murdering somebody over a loud muffler.

Another Iraqi prisoner had been apparently suffocated by being stuffed into a sleeping bag head-first.  No prosecution.

For the rightwing trolls who claim that criticizing any American for committing a crime while in uniform is "dishonoring our soldiers," I've got two comments:

One: Leck mich doch! (Rough translation: Bite me!)

Two: If you "honor," excuse or defend the actions of soldiers who murder prisoners or carry out criminal orders to torture, you're equating these criminals with the now hundreds of thousands of inidividual soldiers who have served in Iraq, under difficult conditions and often with inadequate equipment, without committing such crimes.  Normal Americans honor soldiers who do their duty.  Only rightwing zealots "honor" the torturers and murderers.

And this really does relate back to Bush's objection to the International Criminal Court.  The ICC is designed to prosecute war crimes only in instances where the legal system of the country involved fails to deal with the crimes.  Before the Bush administration, it was generally assumed that the US legal system would easily meet that test, so that it would be extremely unlikely that the ICC would assume jurisdiction over a case involving Americans working on behalf of the government, either in the military or in other capacities.

That assumption no longer seems to be valid.   The Bush administration is making the United States into a rogue state within the democratic world.

Chuckie Watch 93: Chuckie gits creepy

Chuckie is starting to creep me out with his rants on child sexual abuse.

In his latest entry on the topic (Disgusting 03/21/05), he at least spares us any fantasies about how he would like to see the perpetrators summarily murdered.  He just says in this one that perps should git lifetime in prison.  But he also includes what seems to be his standard hypothetical example involving an old man and a young girl (although he does cite an actual case this time).

It's getting creepy, Chuckie.  So, if you're genuinely concerned about this problem, I've got some suggestions you can use in your Soapbox column.

First off, you don't have to convince anyone that child sexual abuse is a terrible thing.  Everybody but pedophiles themselves are on board with that one.  Mission accomplished.  You're totally preaching to the choir with that.

So why not try offering some actual advice that parent and relative and adults who work with children can use to recognize situations where child abuse may be occurring?  Children experiencing sexual abuse usually show symptoms of it in their daily lives.  Teachers and social workers are trained to tak notice of these things.  You might actually do some good by providing your readers useful information like that.

You could also give people some suggestions about what to do if they suspect abuse is occurring.  How do they find a social worker or counselor to talk to? When should they go to the police?  What do they do if they suspect misconduct by a teacher or minister?  Those cases may not lend themselves quite so easily to Klan-style rants about the perps, but they are a lot more common than your favorite hypothetical.

In fact, Chuckie, since you're an outspoken fundamentalist Christian, you might be able to particularly hoep in one area.  We know from well-publicized scandals in the US involving the Catholic Church, and the Episcopal Church earlier, that some priests abuse children.  It's a real problem.

But part of the reason the problem has been aired so much in those churces is because they have organized hierarchies that assign priests to parishes, so it's easier to fix responsiblity on the larger church organization and to identify systematic problems than it is in many smaller and more decentralized Protestant groups.  But it is very likely that some of these smaller denominations and independent fundamentalist churches have the same problem.  (In actual cult groups, it's endemic.)  Since training and screening standards for ministers are often more lax in those groups, it could even be worse.  You might actually help someone out in that area by encouraging your fellow fundamentalists to look for problems along those lines.

Why not post the Web addresses of some responsible sites that offer solid clinical, legal and psychological advice about the problem of child sexual abuse?  That would not include Christian fundamentalist or secular extremists sites that toss out lurid stories like the ones you've so far featured in your column without offering any concrete advice other than to be furious at the perps.  Heck, set up a page at your site with references to available resources.

Also, Chuckie, even with a problem like this, simplemindedness and hysteria can do more harm than good.  The sad history of the "recovered memory" cases in the 1980s and 1990s, which were often promoted by Christian fundamentalist therapists using bad therapeutic methods, provide some grim examples of that.  And also, pedophilia proper (sexual obsession with prepubescent children) presents a different set of social, psychological and law-enforcement problems than adults having sex with underage teens.  But both tend to get lumped together in public discussion these days as "child abuse."

Even on the latter problem, there are obviously different degrees of harm.  There are good reasons for having statutory rape laws, and setting some age limit seems to be the only practical way of doing it.  But a 40-year-old teacher pressuring a 17-year-old student for sex is quite a different thing from an 18-year-old having consensual sex with a 17-year-old boyfriend/girlfriend.  The 18-year-old would be committing a crime in every US state that I know of.  Unless they were married, which at least in California they could be with the consent of the minor's parents.

Does it make sense to put the unmarried 18-year-old in prison for life?  Or is it that on even a sensitive and important issue like this that reality calls for more complicated judgments than spewing about how horrible it all is, or mindlessly blaming it all on the ACLU and "political correctness" and whatever else happens to be ticking you off on a particular day?

(For an example of a post that actually says something useful, see Steve Gilliard's Isn't she a minor? 07/24/04, which deals with a campaign in Virginia to discourage thirtysomething guys from getting underage teenagers pregnant.)

Angels in California

Somehow, this seems to be an appropriate story for an Easter weekend: City of Angels' First Name Still Bedevils Historians by Bob Pool Los Angeles Times 03/26/05.

What historians cannot agree on is the name given to Los Angeles when its Spanish founders formed it Sept. 4, 1781.

The early settlers meant to name the town after angels; that much is known. But for more than 75 years, local historians have been quarreling over its actual moniker.

Some contend it was El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles.

Others assert it was El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reyna de los Angeles.

Or perhaps it was El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de la Porciuncula. Or El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reyna de los Angeles del Rio Porciuncula. Or maybe El Pueblo de la Reina de los Angeles Sobre el Rio de Porciuncula. Or Pueblo del Rio de Nuestra Señora la Reyna de los Angeles de Porciuncula.

How about plain old Ciudad de los Angeles?

It's one of those fascinating little tidbits of history.  And apparently, there no definitive answer yet on the original name.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

War and politics: Do today's military officers have the right formula?

One of the dramatic results of the Iraq War has been to emphasize how unprepared the US military is - the Army in particular - to fight a counterinsurgency war on the scale they are facing in Iraq.  Although the "lessons of Vietnam" were debated at great length over the last three decades, the prevailing view among military officers basically has been that the US should just avoid guerrilla wars.  That allowed the armed forces to prepare for refighting the Second World War with higher-tech equipment.

Now, avoiding guerrilla wars is not a bad idea in itself.  Avoiding all kinds of wars is generally a good goal.

But what we're seeing in Iraq is that the Bush doctrine of preventive wars of liberation to spread democracy by bullets, bombs and torture requires the US to fight a large-scale counterinsurgency war in Iraq.  The ongoing Afghan War is also a counterinsurgency, and the attempt to treat it as a conventional war whose main goal was replacing the regime in Kabul has meant that actually combating Al Qaeda and Taliban and other Islamic guerrillas there hasn't been as successful as it might have been.  And should have been.

I've come across an unusually good example of one of the dysfunctional lessons from the Vietnam War that has become conventional US military wisdom, in this article: Lessons from a Successful Counterinsurgency: The Philippines, 1899-1902  by Col. Timothy Deady  Parameters (US Army War College) Spring 2005.  Col. Deady is a civil affairs officer in the Army Reserve.

Nostalgia for the good old days of the "white man's burden"

Col. Deady recognizes, rather sorrowfully it seems, that some of the approaches used in the Philippine War (1899-1902) would be rather difficult to reproduce today, more sissy standards having prevailed among the weak-kneed civilians.  He gives some historical background on the conflict, although he's so impressed with the neoconservative fascination with the Philippine War as a model for today that his enthusiasm seems to overwhelm his analysis.

Very briefly, at the end of the Spanish-American War, the United States took the Philippines as a colony, although our government preferred to call it a "protectorate."  A nasty counterinsurgencywar followed, ending with US forces quelling the rebellion.  Rebel forces led by Emilio Aguinaldo declared independence on June 12, 1898, which is still celebrated today as the Philippine independence day.

Among the American tactics Deady praises and regrets aren't as easy to use with today's softie civilians back home were "chastisement measures" including "fines, arrest, property destruction and confiscation, population concentration, deportation, and scorching sections of the countryside."  He recalls that in those good old days, the Americans set up "concentration camps" of 300,000 civilians in Luzon province.  (That's what he meant by "population concentration.")  The camps were modeled on Indian reservations, he notes.  He writes:

The United States employed collective punishments that involved families and communities. Municipal officials or principales [leading figures] were held responsible for events that occurred in their towns. Prisoners were held until they—or family or friends—provided information, weapons, or both. Crops, buildings, and other property could be confiscated or destroyed as punishment.

By his figures, there were 16,000 Filipino combat losses and another war-related 200,000 civilian deaths "due to disease, starvation and maltreatment by both sides."  But with the wusses in Congress and the public these days, Deady worries that such approaches may not be entirely acceptable, despite what he sees as the near-model outcome of the war in the Philippines.

He notes sadly, "One need only consider Kipling’s poetic admonition to 'Pick up the White Man’s Burden' for a quick jolt into how different the prevailing standards of acceptable discourse are today.

Clausewitz to the rescue

We can hope that its not a common view among our officer corps to idolize the Philippine War as Deady does.  But I'm afraid that his view of the politics of war is widely shared by our military leaders as one of the mean "lessons of Vietnam."

In thinking about Vietnam, it became fashionable among US military thinkers to look to the theories of the 19th century theorist of war, the Prussian (German) Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831).  Since Clausewitz is known in particular for building his military theory around the concept that war in the continuation of politics by other means, it makes sense that his ideas would be intriguing in thinking about counterinsurgency warfare.  In addition, the Russian revolutionary Lenin was a big fan of that idea of Clausewitz' in particular.  And his influence certainly had an effect on the theory and practice of revolutionary warfare by Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap.

The influential book On Strategy (1982) by Harry Summers promoted a particular kind of "Clausewitzian" look at the Vietnam War.  Although he denies that any stab-in-the-back theory took hold among military officers, we get a good idea of where his theory is going from the quotation with which he opens Chapter 1. It's from the Department of the Army Field Manual 100-1 (Washington, D.C: USGPO, 1978); the emphasis is Summers'.

Political purposes and military aim in warfare serve together to define and limit its scope and intensity, the number of national actors, the limits of geographic involvement, and restrictions on the employment of weapons and choice of targets, as well as other factors. The interactions of military operations and political judgments, conditioned by national will, serve to further define and limit the achievable objectives of a conflict and, thus to determine its duration and conditions of termination.

In other words, instead of seeing war as a form of politics in the broader sense, such as setting that the goals of an intervention within an overall context of national policy and international relations, was often reduced in practice to a much narrower meaning.  In that narrower sense, it's the job of politicians to create overwhelming public support for a war.  Then once the war stops, the politicians should leave the war itself to the generals and let them concentrate on the operational aspects of fighting the war.  The generals can then fight the war the way they want, i.e., re-fight the Second World War with the latest weaponry.

Rather than become a broader theory for integrating political goals with military goals and operations, it became a justification for concentrating the enormous resources of the US military on training for conventional war and avoiding "indecisive" wars like the Vietnam War.  Or the Iraq War.

The half-
Clausewitz view of war

Deady's article gives some good glimpses of that kind of thinking.  For instance, he writes that n 1900, rebel leader Aguinaldo's goal:

... was to sour Americans on the war and ensure the victory of the anti-
imperialist William Jennings Bryan in the presidential election. Concentrating forces for attacks in September 1900, the guerillas achieved successes against company-sized American units.

McKinley’s reelection sapped motivation from the resistance that had anticipated his defeat. ...

Now I'm not familiar enough with that aspect of the war to know how close to correct he is in thinking that Aguinaldo's strategy was to elect a Democrat as President of the United States in 1900.  I'm guessing that Aguinaldo was more focused on rallying support and unifying his supporters in the Philippines than on helping Bryan's long-shot candidacy for the American Presidency.  Deady returns to the theme:

Having adopted the guerilla tactics of protracted warfare, Aguinaldo and his generals mistakenly led their followers to expect a quick victory with McKinley’s defeat. The pre-election peak of guerilla activity in late 1900 cost soldiers, equipment, weapons, and morale that were never replaced. [my emphasis]

 What's interesting here is Deady's focus on the politics of war being focused so heavily on the civilian decision-makers back home and whether they would support the operational actions that the generals wanted to take.  The question of whether conquering the Philippines was a good idea for the United States in 1900, whether it was in the national interest and worth the potential costs in life, treasure and international standing, those are not questions that trouble Deady's analysis in this article.  He cites Clausewitz as an authority for his focus:

Strategy is the manner in which a nation employs its national power toachieve policy goals and a desired end-state. The “center of gravity” is an important concept for understanding how and where to employ the elements of power. The concept’s originator, Carl von Clausewitz, identified it as the source of the enemy’s “power and movement, upon which everything depends.” Current US doctrine extends the concept to both belligerents in a conflict and differentiates between strategic and operational levels of the center of gravity. The essence of strategy then is to apply the elements of power to attack the enemy’s centers of gravity and to safeguard one’s own.

The Filipino insurgents accurately targeted the US strategic center of gravity—the national willpower as expressed by the Commander-in-Chief and supported by his superiors, the voting public. The American populace’s will to victory was the powerful key that brought the nation’s formidable elements of power to bear.
[my emphasis]

This viewpoint is only one lost war away from a stab-in-the-back theory.  If a war like the Philippine War or, more currently, the Iraq War turns out to be far more costly than the military and civilian leaders led us to believe, if hearing generals and colonels and Pentagon press flaks repeatedly declare turning points and tipping points and broken backs of the resistance wrecks their credibility with the public, if people become disillusioned with grotesque scenes of sadistic torture carried out by American soldiers and sanctioned by "honorable" generals, well all that is a lack of will!  If these soft, cowardly civilians wusses and wimmin and pacifists would've just cheered for the home team until we'd killt us enough foreigners to declare victory, everything would have been all right.

It's often said that the North Vietnamese and Vietcong forces never won a battle against the Americans.  I believe that's technically true.  But so what?  All those victories became an escalating disaster with no end in sight and, for most Americans, no understandable purpose involved.  Cheering to win is fine for the hometown football team.  But in wars, it's a lot more complicated.  People have to ask what they're cheering for, and what they and their children and they relatives and friends are being required to kill and die for.

Here we see the strategy/operational split, which in Deady'sanalysis is essentially the same as the division between the proper field of civilian authority and the area which should be left to the wisdom of the generals:

America’s source of operational power, its operational center of gravity, was the forces fielded in the Philippines. ...

I've posted before about the dysfuntional lessons that the military learned from Vietnam about the effect of press coverage on public support, including comments on another article in this same issue of Parameters.  Deady touches on another piece of dysfunctional conventional wisdom related to that:

Discussing the impact of the modern media on combat operations could fill volumes. Considerations that particularly deserve mention are the US populace’s famous impatience and aversion to casualties. Americans prefer quick, decisive, and relatively bloodless victories like Urgent Fury and Desert Storm. ... [my emphasis]

Now, except for the armchair warmongers, most Americans don't want to see other Americans killed in war.  But this notion of the alleged "aversion to casualties" is at least as much justification as it is analysis.  There is very good reason to believe that, in a cause that was considered necessary and right, the general public would be willing to accept significant casualities.  But this assumption serves another purpose in the military conventional wisdom, validating the use of proxies like the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan (who failed to capture Osama bin Laden and allowed large numbers of key Al Qaeda combatants to escape) and of relying heavily on aerial bombing of cities and even small villages.

In his conclusion, Deady sets up the stab-in-the-back theory for Iraq.

At the strategic level there is no simple secret to success. Victory in a counterinsurgency requires patience, dedication, and the willingness to remain. The American strategic center of gravity that Aguinaldo identified a century ago remains accurate today.

Translation from Pentagonese:  When we decide the Iraq War is not worth it any more and pull out, it's not because of the Army's lack of counterinsurgency training, or the timidity of the generals who refused to stand up to ideologues like Rumsfeld, or the disastrous international politics of the war, or the fact that the whole thing was justified on cooked intelligence about nonexistent WMDs, or the torture scandal, or the checkpoint shootings, or the massive destruction over two years of counterinsurgency warfare after which we can barely identify who the enemy is.  No, not because of any of that.  It's because of the lilly-livered civilians and traitors and cowards who wouldn't let the military finish the job they started.

Not that anything can stop our superpatriots from saying that when its over.  But those of us in the reality-based community can remember to ask them what they have in mind by "winning" or "finishing the job."  If it's like the same sorry excuse on the Vietnam War, most of them want have a clue what you're talking about.

Missing Clausewitz's point

Military anlayst Andrew Bacevich has some perceptive observations on this in a review of Gen. Tommy Franks' memoir American Soldier:  A Modern Major General by Andrew Bacevich New Left Review 29 Sept-Oct 2004.  I'm surprised to see an article by Bacevich in that particular journal.  But the point he makes here is an important one: 

Thus, although the author of American Soldier mouths Clausewitzian slogans, when it comes to the relationship of war and politics, he rejects the core of what Clausewitz actually taught. And in that sense he typifies the post-Vietnam American officer.

Clausewitz sees the nature of war as complex and elusive; generalship requires not only intensive study and stalwart character, but also great intuitive powers. For Franks, war is a matter of engineering—and generalship the business of organizing and coordinating materiel. ...

Here we come face to face with the essential dilemma with which the United States has wrestled ever since the Soviets had the temerity to deprive us of a stabilizing adversary—a dilemma that the events of 9/11 only served to exacerbate. The political elite that ought to bear the chief responsibility for formulating grand strategy instead nurses ideological fantasies of remaking the  world in America’s image, as the Bush administration’s National Security Strategy of 2002 so vividly attests. Meanwhile, the military elite that could possibly puncture those fantasies and help restore a modicum of realism to us policy instead obsesses over operations. Reluctant to engage in any sort of political–military dialogue that might compromise their autonomy, the generals allow fundamental questions about the relationship between power and purpose to go unanswered and even unrecognized.
[my emphasis]