Tuesday, December 26, 2006

On Barack Obama 

Show me a man who's universally loved--at whom nobody is pissed off, and I'll show you a man who hasn't done anything important.

From what I have seen so far, Barack Obama is a bright young Senator who has a gift for oratory. Other than that, by all reports he has pretty much voted the Democratic line. I can't think of any major legislation that he's introduced, nor any controversial stands that he's taken. There's nothing in his record of which I'm aware to show what he's really made of.

Don't get me wrong--Obama may indeed be Presidential material, but right now, from where I sit there's no way to tell. Seems to me that running for President ought not to be the first important thing anyone does.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Aaahhh, Christmas!! 

'Tis the season to get together with your neighbors in a sense of community ... in the checkout line at Costco. (Or, more accurately, in the line to get into a checkout line at Costco.)

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Worst Former President Ever 

Is it possible for one person to "jump the shark" multiple times? If so, Jimmy Carter must hold the world's record.

The man writes a book that describes history as he would like it to be, rather than what it is, causing esteemed Middle East scholar Kenneth Stein to disassociate himself from the Carter Center after twenty-three years there, including being its first director. Then Carter refuses to debate Alan Dershowitz, claiming he "knows nothing about the situation in Palestine."

Jimmeh, please go back to peanut farming and building houses for the poor. You can do a lot less harm to the world in general and the United States in particular when engaged in those activities than you do when you try to play the elder statesman role. I for one am tired of being embarrassed by you.

UPDATE and bump 20061218:0732PST: The New York Examiner evidently has similar thoughts, but they do a much more professional job of expressing them. (What the hey--they are professionals.)

Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Toying With Genocide 

Gerald Vanderleun has a thoughtful--and chilling--post at the American Digest. He discusses what might happen if Islamist terrorists manage to convince the population of the West that Islam is all about what they are doing. Here's the nut:
"I have no doubt that, if we feel for any reason threatened enough, we will indeed come to the day when the unthinkable becomes a series of orders yielding a set of trajectories that end millions of lives in less than an instant, with North Korea a brief footnote.

This is why I still deeply believe that the current effort in Iraq and the Middle East to counter and expunge Islamic terrorism and turn Islam from the road it is on towards one of reformation and assimilation is the best path that can be taken at this time. Indeed, for all the ineptitude of the current administration, for all the expense in treasure and lives, this shoot-the-moon, Hail Mary of a foreign policy in Iraq is not just a policy to make America safer at home. It is the only thing that stands between Islam and its own destruction."

Read the whole thing.

Thanks to Instapundit for the pointer.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Generational War 

Brig. Gen. Mark O. Schissler of the USAF foresees a war against Islamist terrorism lasting fifty to one hundred years. He says that the war must be fought in both the military and ideological arenas. Money quote:
"I don't care about the politics. I care about people understanding the facts of what's (sic) our enemy is thinking about, what's our strategy to defeat them, and for [Americans] to understand that it will take a long fight, mostly because our enemy is committed to the long fight," he said. "They're absolutely committed to the 50-, 100-year plan."
"One of my concerns is how to maintain the American will, the public will over that duration," he said.
It's good to see that someone in a position to recommend policy recognizes the nature of the struggle Western society faces, and it's even better that he's saying so publicly. More, please.

Anyone who visits this site regularly knows that I regard radical Islamists as an existential threat to our society, and that we must be serious about meeting that threat or our grandchildren or great-grandchildren will be praying five times a day while facing Mecca.

Osama bin Laden has spoken of the "tragedy of al-Andalus," referring to the expulsion of the Moors from Spain in 1492. These Islamofascist guys have long memories, and as such have a distinct advantage over Americans brought up on TV, where the typical crisis is resolved in an hour or two, or maybe, if it's really awful, 24.

So far, we've been fighting a war without making any sacrifices in our greater society. Certainly our military and their families have made great sacrifices, and for that they have my eternal respect and gratitude. But what I'm referring to is the sense within society as a whole that there's a real threat out there, and that it requires our continuing attention. I hope it doesn't take a repeat of 9/11 or worse to wake us up, but I have a nagging uneasy feeling that something like that is exactly what it will take.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pearl Harbor Day and September 11 

Today is the 65th anniversary of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, which caused the United States to enter WWII. 2,403 were killed in the attack, including 68 civilians. Almost half of the deaths occurred on USS Arizona when its magazine exploded.

The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 occurred 1913 days ago. 2,973 were killed in the attack, the vast majority of them civilians. Most of the deaths occurred when the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was conducted by elements of the Imperial Japanese Navy, comprising six aircraft carriers, two battleships, three cruisers, nine destroyers, eight tankers, 23 fleet submarines, five midget submarines and 441 planes, the largest carrier strike force up to that time. (Source: Wikipedia.).

The attack on September 11 was conducted by 19 men who were agents of al-Qaeda, a non-governmental radical Muslim terrorist group. Fourteen of the terrorists were Saudi subjects, two were from the United Arab Emirates, and one each were Lebanese, Yemeni and Egyptian. (Source: BBC News)

World War II ended 15 August 1945, 1347 days after the Pearl Harbor attack, following the use of two atomic bombs by the US against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Since September 11 the United States has toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq, but fighting continues in both countries. Al-Qaeda and other non-state terrorist actors (some with state sponsorship) are still active around the world. It is possible that in the future al-Qaeda or another terrorist group will obtain one or more nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and successfully deploy them against one or more American cities. If that should occur, I believe the American public will demand that their government bomb somebody back into the Stone Age, and I don't think they'll be too fastidious about determining exactly who the perpetrators are--the attitude is likely to be more like, "Kill them all and let God sort them out."

The nature of the terrorist enemy that the United States (and Western civilization generally) faces today is vastly different from that of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, not to mention the Soviet Union during the Cold War, North Korea and North Vietnam. It seems to me that the war against radical Muslim terrorism is similar to a worldwide counterespionage effort melded with a worldwide campaign against organized crime.

That said, I don't think that either a law enforcement or military model alone is sufficient to counter the threat because the enemy is bigger than a criminal organization but at the same time is decentralized and self-guided, with ad hoc alliances forming and dissolving constantly. Police organizations are overwhelmed by the size of the problem and at the same time are hampered by the "rules of engagement" properly imposed on civilian law enforcement in constitutional democracies. As capable as our military is, I don't think that military action alone can conquer radical Muslim terrorism because the enemy is not a conventional military organization. They hide in the general population, don't wear uniforms and don't give a whit for the "laws of war" that civilized society has developed over centuries. The military rules of engagement are designed to protect civilians, but as a practical matter it is next to impossible to tell the difference between a true civilian and a radical terrorist until the terrorist acts.

I don't think there is a political solution to the problem either, because I believe the foundation for radical Muslim terrorism is cultural and religious, rather than political. My feeling, and fear, is that the problem of radical Muslim terrorism won't go away unless and until the vast majority of the world's 1.2 billion to 1.6 billion Muslims take an active role in ending it.

I believe it is true that the radical terrorists comprise a tiny fraction of the world's Muslims. I believe it is true that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are good people, who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace and pursue happiness in their own way. Edmund Burke said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." From where I sit it is obvious that all of those good Muslims have to date done nothing to end the evil of terrorism, and it doesn't appear to me that they'll find the motivation to do so anytime soon. Not being a scholar of Islam, I worry about whether the Koran and other foundational writings of the faith do in fact sanction such terrorism for the good of Islam.

I don't know what the answer is, but I shudder to think what the future holds for the human race if this cancer of radical Muslim terrorism is not excised. God help us all.

UPDATE: 20061207:1218PST: I didn't read Victor Davis Hanson's column for today before I wrote this. Honest!

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rules of Engagement 

OK, up front, I am not serving and have never served in the military. I was an "Army Brat" and lived in a military universe until I left home to attend college, so I have perhaps more of an appreciation than the average civilian for the complexity of these issues, but I acknowledge that there is a vast difference between being a military dependent and serving in the military.

Instapundit points to this post about the tightening rules of engagement in Iraq. It appears that the individual soldier and Marine now operate under rules that do not give them carte blanche to defend themselves individually. In my view, one of two things must change ASAP: either the ROE be clarified to ensure that our troops have the unqualified right to defend themselves individually, or turn all military operations over to the Iraqis. (Note that I have not read the comments to the linked post, so my thoughts might inadvertently echo those of others.)

The ROE described in the linked post have the aroma of being promulgated, or at least heavily influenced, by lawyer and diplomat types who have never been faced with split-second, life-or-death decisions. While these kinds of people have their place, the battlefield isn't it. Politically correct rules of engagement are an indication to the troops on the line that their superiors are not serious about winning the conflict. Worse, they are an indication to the enemy that we are not serious about winning. See Steven Den Beste's quote at left. I would not be surprised if this has an impact on the re-up rate discussed earlier.

I think it's immoral to send troops to fight in a war that the nation is not committed to winning. I believe we initially were committed to winning in Iraq, but that attitude faded as we got into the nuts and bolts of administering the country after Saddam's fall. I am hopeful based on early reports that the ISG report delivered this morning will have some useful observations and recommendations mixed in with the politically correct BS, and that our elected leaders are smart enough to tell the difference.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Future Threats and the Democratic Congress 

Spook86 at In From The Cold has an interesting post today (well, I find them all interesting, but this one particularly so) about the mindset of Sen. Levin (D-MI) and like-thinking Dems concerning ballistic missile defense. In essence, he thinks the Dems are going to establish impossible criteria for success for the system. When these criteria are not met, Levin and his friends will then have an excuse to kill the program. If such a thing occurs, the US will have zero capability to defend against ballistic missile threats by rogue states such as North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.

This is not good.

It is especially not good in light of Russia's ongoing development of anti-missile countermeasures for its ICBMs and a new nuclear delivery system called a hypersonic glide vehicle, which is maneuverable and would presumably be difficult-to-impossible to defend against with existing anti-ballistic missile weapons.

I have no idea what Levin is thinking, but lacking anti-missile defenses would seem to force us back into the mutual assured destruction posture of the Cold War. I know of nobody who liked that strategy (with the possible exception of movie director Stanley Kubrick, who was extremely successful with Dr. Strangelove), but at the time it was that or concede. Presumably Sen. Levin and his friends have an alternative proposal that they think will provide the nation with defenses against nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. Alternatively, Sen. Levin must believe that there is no real threat from such missiles and so building defenses against them is a waste of money and resources. The latter would put Sen. Levin in the same category as San Francisco Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval, who believes that the US should not have a military, any differences being merely a matter of degree.

Anti-ballistic missile defense systems are very complex and cutting-edge, and so are long lead time items. Decisions made today will affect US defense capabilities 15-20 years in the future. If Sen. Levin's views prevail, that future will be much riskier for the Nation than might otherwise be. God save us, because Sen. Levin and his allies won't.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Bolton Resigning 

John Bolton's resignation, effective as of the convening of the new Congress, has been accepted by President Bush. What a shame. Bolton is demonstrably one of the most effective UN ambassadors the United States has ever had. Perhaps that's why some oppose him.

Bolton occupies the position as a result of a recess appointment by the President, which expires at the end of the current Congress. Because of opposition by a handful of Senators, some on ideological grounds, some due to personal dislike and some just to be a PIA, Bolton's appointment never made it to the floor of the Senate for an up-or-down vote. I don't think the Founding Fathers had this kind of thing in mind when they wrote the advice and consent clause into the Constitution. I think they wanted each appointee to be scrutinized by the entire Senate and the collective wisdom of that body applied in deciding whether to approve the nomination.

It's cases like this that lead me to favor a Constitutional amendment requiring an up-or-down vote on every appointee whose nomination falls under the advice and consent clause, within 90 calendar days after the President formally submits the nomination for Senate approval. Matters like this are too important to be left to the rules of the Senate, which nobody (with the possible exception of Bobby Byrd (D-WV) fully understands. It should never be possible for a few Senators with a political or personal agenda to hold up a nomination the way Bolton's was held up.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sending A Message 

I read in the San Diego Union-Tribune this morning that the Navy is scrapping plans to hold the commissioning ceremony for the USS Makin Island in San Francisco. According to the article,
"Navy leaders were concerned about San Francisco's refusal to offer a homeport for the retired battleship Iowa, which would be turned into a museum, as well as the school board's decision to abolish junior ROTC training in city high schools, Myatt said.

Some city politicians also have publicly criticized the Pentagon. In one instance, Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval said national defense should be left to “the cops and the Coast Guard.”

I can't think of a more appropriate response by the military than to choose to hold important ceremonial events like commissionings in places where the military is more respected. As Michelle Malkin observes, maybe Fleet Week is next.

The retired Marine general who headed the citizens committee in support of having SF host the ceremony doesn't think the high-profile anti-military comments by local politicians accurately reflect the sentiments held by the majority of the public.

Well, even if that's true, I tend to agree with the adage that people get the government they deserve. A majority (or at least a plurality) of San Francisco voters elected the people making those comments, and it is well known that San Francisco is one of the bluest, if not the bluest, city in America. (E.g., San Francisco County, which is coterminous with the city, is the only county in California that did not vote in favor of the state's version of Jessica's law in last month's election.) I strongly suspect that the voters of San Francisco knew exactly who they were electing, and what their positions were.

The chickens, as they say, are coming home to roost.

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