Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Do We Have A "Free" Press? We Do Not.

On Phil's blog a commenter, AMviennaVA, wrote

"The Bushies are greatly at fault. But I place greater fault at the feet of the press. Why were they, and why are they, so docile and compliant? As Helen Thomas put it, "where is everybody, for God's sakes?""

I felt that this question deserves its own post.

So where is "Everybody?" "Everybody" is not a reporter. "Everybody" may want the truth to come out, but the networks are owned by only a few major corporations and a tiny elite of incredibly rich people. They, as all interest groups do, serve their own interests.

Our democratic process is drowned out by the noise created by the right-wing owned media. This is the same "mainstream media" excoriated by the right wing for ANY reports not favorable to their ideology - remember when the criticism of the reporting in Iraq was that it did not report all the "good news" from Iraq, as if the reports of growing chaos and anarchy and bloodshed were false?

Well, five years on, were they false? Doesn't matter, as shown by the ABC "News" democratic candidate debate, they are all drinking the right-wing KoolAid now. All the attention of Rev. Wright, none of Rev. Hagee? Why?

Where was our 4th estate, our free press uncontrolled by the government that our republic relies upon when the People make their decisions?

Here is where the media was:

* Disney, "New" Viacom (and its former parent CBS Corporation, the former "Old" Viacom), TimeWarner, News Corp, Bertelsmann AG, and General Electric together own more than 90% of the media holdings in the United States.

* Among other assets, Disney owns ABC, Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group, ESPN, and Miramax Films.

* CBS Corporation owns CBS, CBS Radio (formerly Infinity Radio), Simon & Schuster editing group, a 50% ownership stake in The CW, etc.

* Time Warner owns CNN, Time, AOL, a 50% ownership stake in The CW, etc.

Rupert Murdoch, the media magnate, apart of News Corp., also owns British News of the World, The Sun, The Times, and The Sunday Times, as well as the Sky Television network, which merged with British Satellite Broadcasting to form BSkyB; in the US, he owns the Fox Networks and the New York Post. Since 2003, he also owns 34% of DirecTV Group (formerly Hughes Electronics), operator of the largest American satellite TV system, DirecTV, and Intermix Media (creators of since 2005. He recently purchased the Wall Street Journal and is in the process of firing those whose opinions he dislikes and replacing them with fellow right-wing "true believers."

On June 2, 2003, FCC, in a 3-2 vote under Chairman Michael Powell, approved new media ownership laws that removed many of the restrictions previously imposed to limit ownership of media within a local area. The changes were not, as is customarily done, made available to the public for a comment period.

* Single-company ownership of media in a given market is now permitted up to 45% (formerly 35%, up from 25% in 1985) of that market.

* Restrictions on newspaper and TV station ownership in the same market were removed.

* All TV channels, magazines, newspapers, cable, and Internet services are now counted, weighted based on people's average tendency to find news on that medium. At the same time, whether a channel actually contains news is no longer considered in counting the percentage of a medium owned by one owner.

* Previous requirements for periodic review of license have been changed. Licenses are no longer reviewed for "public-interest" considerations.

Cross-Ownership Proceedings

The FCC voted December 18, 2007 to relax media ownership rules, including a statute that forbids a single company to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin circulated the plan in October 2007.

Martin's justification for the rule change is to ensure the viability of America's newspapers and to address issues raised in Powell's 2003 FCC decision that was later struck down by the courts. The FCC held six hearings around the country to receive public input from individuals, broadcasters and corporations. Because of the lack of discussion during the 2003 proceedings, increased attention as been paid to ensuring that the FCC engages in proper dialogue with the public regarding its current rules change.

FCC Commissioners Deborah Taylor-Tate and Robert McDowell joined Chairman Martin in voting in favor of the rule change. Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, both Democrats, opposed the change.

In short, we do not have government-controlled media in America, but we do not have a free press either. Instead we have big business-controlled media AND big business-controlled government.

Corporate "ownership" of our government is a textbook perfect definition of fascism. No, not Nazism, with its anti-antisemitism - rather simple fascism, which puts the interests of the wealthy ahead of the interests of the people.

We need to keep fighting the American Revolution. If we don't our "liberty" is just a product name for a jeep.

In the meantime, Wolfie and Bushco will not only "get away with it," if McCain is elected they will continue their fascist path.

I know this makes me sound like a conspiracy nut, and I wish that was all I was, but the war in Iraq and the mess here at home are facts, not conspiracy theories. I wish I were wrong. You readers know I am not.

The question is, what can we do to save our liberty from rapacious corporations willing to stop at nothing to maintain profits and control? If we have a corporate-controlled press, how do we stop the madness? How do we even debate it when it turns into a shouting match, with the loudest shouts coming from those who want to drown out debate and information in the first place?

What do we do when our "free press" is very expensive and owned by the "bad guys?" What do we do now?

Friday, April 25, 2008


The war drums continue to beat loudly - now the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mullen, says "the Pentagon is planning for 'potential military courses of action' against Iran, criticizing what he called the Tehran government's 'increasingly lethal and malign influence' in Iraq."

When will the crazy train stop? This is exceedingly dangerous.

First, is Iran meddling in Iraq? Of course Iran is attempting to influence events in Iraq. If Iran had invaded Canada and occupied it, would we stand idly by? And that is a bad example because Iran suffered hundreds of thousands, possibly as many as a million casualties, in the war between Iran and Iraq. Iraq started that war. It is ridiculous to expect Iran to stand idly by as their sworn enemy the USA attempts to remake their neighboring country Iraq, which attacked them once before with devastating and terrible results. Yes, Iran is attempting to influence events in Iraq and Iran will not stop - NO NATION in Iran's position would do any different. Iran's actions are not a cassus belli, they are merely a rational (albeit unwelcome) response to anarchy on their doorstep. I don't care about "proof" of Iranian involvement with Shia militias, or "proof" of Iranian weapons and explosives showing up in Iraq. We did even more for the Afghan tribesmen fighting the Soviet Union after they foolishly invaded Afghanistan. Iran's actions are not a reason to go to war! I say this knowing that Iran's actions have almost certainly helped lead to the death of friends of mine. But I say this because it is true. Yes, Iran is involved in Iraq, any national security professional that is surprised by that should be fired immediately. As it was inevitable and expected that Iran would do so as a result of our invasion of Iraq, we can not claim we are justified in invading Iran because they are doing exactly what we expected them to do, what we would do in the same situation, what ANY nation would do in their shoes. Their actions are not grounds for war, their actions are instead reasonable, rational, and harmful to us. That last part - harmful to us - is not a justification for war. We caused the harm to ourselves by invading Iraq. We brought ourselves to the Iranian border, Iran did not come to us. And Iran must, for its own national security, be involved in what takes place in Iraq. They have little choice. For us to consider it a cause for war means we expected, or should have expected, to go to war with Iran when we invaded Iraq in 2003 - for war would be the outcome of our actions, not Iran’s. We had, and have, a choice, while Iran has few options. Iran must be involved in what occurs in Iraq, we don’t have to be.

Second, and perhaps more important: WE WOULD LOSE. A war with Iran would not end with a "liberation" of Tehran. No friendly regime would be installed in Iran were we to foolishly attack. Iran would not surrender. Iranians would not greet us as liberators. The most ardent opponents of the current Iranian regime would rally round their flag and fight us (remember Bush’s approval ratings of 90%? 9 out of 10 of us actually supported him following 9/11 - and the same reaction would occur in Iran, it is human nature). It would cost us thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of US casualties. It would require a draft, a LARGE draft, just to prevent our entire force currently in Iraq from being overrun. Our nominal Shia "allies" in Iraq would side with Iran - not because they are "bad," or because all Muslims are “bad,” or because they are devious, but because they don't consider Iran an enemy, they are co-religionists, and Iran gave shelter and support to many Shia who fled Saddam's brutal regime. In other words, they would side with Iran because it is entirely rational for them to do so, while siding with us would be irrational. The Maliki "government," Sadr, Badr, you name it - all would side with Iran. The Sunnis already hate us, so don't expect support from them, although they would not welcome and would likely fight against any Iranian troops in Iraq as many hate the Shia (Sunnis sometimes refer to Shia Iraqis as Iranians or Persians). So we would be beset on all sides.

What would be our response? Good question. The answer is “not much other than killing lots of civilians and destroying Iranian infrastructure.” We don’t have the resources for a war with Iran.

We have no reserves left. Our conventional (read: heavy armor tank-on-tank manuever warfare) capability is nothing like it was in 2003 - it basically does not exist. Few (if any) infantry or tank commanders have any idea how to conduct the kind of operation we launched against Iraq in 2003 - we haven't trained that way in years, we no longer conduct force-on-force maneuver training at any of our CTCs, something that is critical if our much-vaunted "conventional" capability is to be effective. In short: the Army of 2003 no longer exists. Today's Army is not trained and not very well-equipped to mount a conventional campaign. As a result our expectation of a lightning-fast, brilliantly-executed campaign is a false expectation. Our army and marine corps are simply not trained and equipped to do that anymore - we haven’t done it since 2003 and we don’t train for it anymore, and a campaign like the invasion of 2003 is something that an army has to practice, practice, and practice at in order to execute it. We don’t train that way anymore at all. By way of comparison, we used to run anywhere from 9 to as many as 14 force-on-force maneuver rotations at the National Training Center (the NTC) a year. We do none - NONE - now, the entire NTC now trains brigades for Iraq, not for maneuver warfare. Tank companies don’t train in their tanks to fight other tanks. Infantry units don’t train to fight conventional forces on a conventional battlefield. We train for our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan because that is all our tiny and overworked and overburdened and neglected and mis-used army and marines have time to do.

But why worry? We have control of the air. As Adm. Mullen notes,
a conflict with Iran would be "extremely stressing" but not impossible for U.S. forces, pointing specifically to reserve capabilities in the Navy and Air Force.
The problem is that if you expect our air power to win a ground conflict with Iran you are AN IDIOT.

If airpower were capable of winning a ground conflict against a ground force, why did we invade Iraq? And why are we still there if air power can suffice in the place of boots on the ground? Iran could send 300K+ ground troops into Iraq if we were stupid enough to think dropping bombs would cause them to stop meddling in Iraq. Instead our 140K troops in Iraq would find themselves under fire from all sides. And air power? If we think the Iranian military is stupid enough to expose themselves to our air power, why are we so concerned about them as a threat? If they are real threat we must assume they are not dummies - and that they will know how to counter our airpower superiority. It isn't hard to do. The North Vietnamese did it. The Iraqi insurgents do it. The Afghans did it to the Soviets. They do it to us now. But Iran? No, they wouldn't figure out that their best option would be to use ground troops who deploy in terrain (an urban environment) that negates our air superiority. Because I guess they can't read and aren't paying attention to what is happening in Iraq - oh, and yet that is why we apparently need to fight them - because of what they are doing in Iraq.

We have no capability left other than to drop bombs, most likely on civilians. On families. And we would hope that our "shock and awe" from our air power would result in Iranian capitulation, rather than result in an angry Iranian people becoming even more determined to fight against our soldiers than they were before the first bomb dropped. Sure, that will happen, just like the British surrendered to Nazi Germany as a result of the London Blitz - oh wait. Well, like the Germans surrendering to the Allies as a result of the air - oh, I think a few ground troops were needed there too. Well, like the Algerian resistance capitulated to France - oh. Well, like the North Koreans and Chinese defeat in Korea... hmm. The Vietnam War? hmmm.... Well, our shock and awe campaign worked in Iraq... umm, wait, no it didn’t.

The only way to win a ground war against Iran is to fight on the ground against Iran.

But Adm. Mullen says we have reserves in air power. That is, in effect, an almost straight-forward admission that we do NOT have reserves in land power, that our ground forces are fully committed. But do we really need anybody to tell us that? If you do, then here: we are fully committed and have no ground reserves left, any conflict of even middling size would require a draft in order to respond effectively with ground troops. Now you have been told.

To put it simply: we would fight like hell, the Iranians would fight like hell, but we would not and could not defeat them and occupy Iran, and we might end up in an unmitigated disaster that swallows our tiny army and marines and leaves us incredibly vulnerable. We would not be better off if we went to war with Iran. It would be world-class stupid. And that scares me because this administration is a big fan of doing things that are world-class stupid.

The Washington Post notes
But while Mullen and Gates have recently stated that the Tehran government certainly must know of Iranian actions in Iraq, which they say are led by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, or Quds Force, Mullen said he has "no smoking gun which could prove that the highest leadership [of Iran] is involved in this."
That is what scares me the most. This is not mere saber-rattling, you can rattle sabers without tak like this. This is an attempt to build an actual reason to actually go to war - this is preparation to draw the saber, not merely rattle it, because this kind of talk is not aimed at Iran, it is aimed at the American people!

It is like the specter of WMDs - the debate over whether they existed became the key factor in whether to invade Iraq, instead of the better question: with or without WMDs, did Iraq present a threat requiring an invasion? Even WITH nerve agent, blood agent, or other chemical weapons, there was not a sufficient threat from Saddam's Iraq to justify invasion. Somehow that point of debate was swept away by red-herring WMD discussions. Had we found a WMD program in Iraq, had one actually still existed and we found it, we would still be in the same mess and the invasion would still be a mistake. Having a weapon does not mean there is an intention or a capability to use it. If Saddam had chemical weaponry, so what? We KNEW he had it in the 1980s and did not invade even after he used it, so why invade in 2003 just because he had it? The existence or non-existence of WMDs did not justify the invasion, but when the question became "does he have WMDs?" it made the most important follow-up question, "and if so, should we invade?" simply disappear. It became a deadly and incorrect assumption: “if Iraq has WMDs we must invade, so does Saddam have them?” The real question was simpler: “should we invade Iraq?” The answer appears as clear now to 80% of Americans as it did to most military professionals then: NO. Hell No. It would be a really bad idea - and it was. But the red-herring question of "does Saddam have WMDs?" swallowed that debate entirely, leaving us with a really bad idea executed really badly.

Here, the issue of a "smoking gun" showing top-level Iranian government support for our enemies in Iraq is the red herring. Is Iran meddling in Iraq? WE ALWAYS EXPECTED THEM TO DO SO. It would be unreasonable and crazy to assume they would not - given the recent history of Iran and Iraq, if an Iranian leader did not attempt to influence events in Iraq that leader would be betraying his people - we thought Iraq such a threat that we went to the other side of the planet to invade, Iraq is now totally chaotic, and Iran shares a long border and a history of warfare with Iraq. That "smoking gun," if it ever comes out, is NOT A CASSUS BELLI - IT IS NOT A REASON TO GO TO WAR. The way Adm. Fallon puts it, if the smoking gun proof of Iranian involvement is shown, well BAM we go to war. But if we thought Iraq such a threat that we had to invade, why is it a justification for war if Iran is attempting to influence events and outcomes in that same nation just like we expected?

It is not.

I am not saying we should ignore their efforts. I am not saying it is ok with me that Iran helps Iraqis to kill Americans. I am saying it is not a reason or a justification to go to war with Iran.

And even if it were, we would not be better off in going to war because the millions of people in Iran will not submit just because we lob some bombs. Instead they will do just what you and I would do - they will fight back, and the mess created by the Bush regime will do even more damage than even I expected when I warned not to invade Iraq back in 2002 and 2003.

War with Iraq was a really bad idea. War with Iran is a worse idea. It is worse by an order of magnitude. It is the worst idea of the Bush administration, EVER. Think about how bad an idea has to be to get that honor - worst idea of the Bush administration.

If this is debated elsewhere watch those who support war with Iran talk of nuclear weapons and appeasement. The issue of Iranian involvement in Iraq is separate from talk of nuclear weapons and should be handled differently, but watch it be put front and center, just like WMDs were with Iraq.

And the idea that the only alternative to war is appeasement, or the only alternative to appeasement is war, is patently and absurdly silly - but watch it take place nonetheless. I am not saying do nothing, I am saying war with Iran is a really bad idea. For that I will be called an appeaser and a coward, as I was in 2002 and 2003 when I foolishly and unpatriotically spoke out against the idea of invading Iraq because I thought it would be a really bad idea, really bad for my nation. Guess I really blew that one - because I did not try hard enough to stop that bad idea, it harmed America, and I feel guilty I did not do more to stop it.

Unless enough wimps like me try to stop this foolish march to war, WASF - and this will make our mess in Iraq look like a walk through the damn park.

War with Iran is A REALLY BAD IDEA.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Right when I thought it couldn't get worse

In a few hours, the rest of you are going to wake up to this article by David Barstow ( This lengthy piece concerns the use of media "military analysts" to further the administration and Pentagon's propaganda efforts to paint a favorable picture to the population. Retired senior officers, many of whom had significant financial stake in pleasing the decision makers and Rummy, were given access, the party line info and then sent out to speak on the media as if they were totally independent "analysts".

This practice, and all who supported it, are truly below contempt. And, it is sickening that they were so easily able to enlist a large number of our former comrades in arms in this despicable domestic psyops effort.

During the Eisenhower administration, in an effort to differentiate America from the "Godless Communists", the Pledge of Allegiance was modified to say:

"One nation, under God"

In the spirit of current American culture, perhaps, this administration should amend it to read:

"One nation, on message"

Have you no shame, gentlemen? Have you no shame?

Addendum: As I mull this over in my geriatric mind, all sorts of questions arise.
- Does this point to the dangers of excessive for-profit (contractor) interests in military operations and/or public policy?
- Is it time to prohibit retired senior officials from doing business with the government?
- Will the public be outraged over this blatant domestic propaganda effort, or is it a bit too subtle for them to grasp?
- Is our military leadership so corrupt, morally bankrupt or inept that no questions about this were raised from the inside?

Or, am I over-reacting?

Friday, April 18, 2008

An Existential Threat

Since joining this august body a couple of years ago on Intel Dump, I have read and engaged in discussions of how there is currently no existential threat to the US. Typically, this is in the context of the events of 9/11, the GWOT, and the like.

As the current economic events unfold, my thoughts return to a conversation I had with a friend back around 1963. He was a strategic economist for a major NY bank at the time. He was born and raised in Hong Kong, and did his graduate work at Oxford. Was quite unusual to find a Chinese person in such a responsible position in the "lily white" world of NY banking.

A group of us were enjoying an evening of beer and bull shit at a local tavern. The conversation turned to the "Red Menace". Nothing extreme, but intelligent conversation, much as we generally enjoy in this group. Victor said, "The threat to the US by Communist China is not military. The threat China poses to our existence, as we know it, is purely economic, it is massive and, probably, inevitable."

Victor then went on to address some of the reasoning behind his prediction. At the top of the list was the availability of massive, truly massive, amounts of cheap labor. Once China began to industrialize, this huge labor pool would offer a cost advantage and production capacity previously unknown in the world. I haven’t taken the time to check the stats of 1963, but today, slightly more than one out of every five inhabitants of this planet lives in China. Further, China is nowhere near having tapped the available manpower for industrial production. 76% of the Chinese population still lives in rural areas, versus 25% of Americans.

Victor was not concerned just about "competition", but addiction. He said that once China began to produce inexpensive goods for export, the US would become addicted, and thus dependent upon Chinese goods. And, China could afford to keep their prices low for an incomprehensibly extended period of time, because the vast pool of untapped labor would keep that cost element down considerably as compared to nations where the bulk of the labor pool is employed. He then spoke about the flow of money out of the US, and the resulting "ownership" of the US that could result. He also addressed some of the advantages that a Communist government/economy has in the manipulation of currency, especially the ability to operate without classical market considerations, for an extended period of time.

Now, this was in 1963, and the only significant "trade partner" offering cheap goods was Japan, and back then, Japanese "stuff" had not fully climbed above the "recycled beer can" level. America was still a major producer of the necessities of life purchased by Americans.

In summary, Victor said that all China had to do was begin to industrialize on a scale modest in proportion to its population, establish market inroads in the US and then be patient. Our voracious appetites and quest for a quick buck would succumb to good old patience and overwhelming numbers.

So, my good friends, are we wasting our time worrying about a military existential threat, when our own cultural propensities make us a sitting duck for economic suffocation by China? Does our need to incur debt to grow suffer a major strategic weakness in comparison to China’s almost "cash and carry" economy? Or, to draw on one of JD’s oft repeated phrases, have 19 miscreants with box cutters diverted our attention from 1.3 + billion industrious Chinese?

I’ve just grazed the surface of this issue. I leave it up to your comments to flesh it out!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

America Loves a Winner (by BG)

By BG, a frequent commenter from the old Intel-Dump:

America Loves a Winner

Isn't it interesting how character traits can both be one's greatest strength, and at the same time one's greatest weakness. This extends to national character as well.

Patton's famous speech to 3rd Army:

"Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American."

One of the Republican/Neocon's greatest arguments against the Clinton administration (and even a failure of the Reagan years) was cutting and running when things got tough. Obvious examples are Somalia and Beruit. These moves were considered to "embolden" our enemy. There is no way the current administration will ever accept a strategy that could be considered the same mistake. Instead, they will drag on the decision to withdraw leaving it to the next administration who they will blame for failing to “stay the course.”

We must “win”, or we will not leave. We can say it is ego, we can say it is pride, but we can also say it is national character and psychology to the point of flaw. What the smart politicians are trying to do is redefine what "win" means. Which side of the isle one sits will greatly impact that definition. This is why we saw all three Presidential candidates make a rare reappearance in Washington this week.


McCain finds himself inescapably intertwined with the current policy and therefore his definition of winning must be compatible (i.e., security, political reconciliation, etc).

How will Democratic leadership define “winning?” Will winning simply be defined as “winning” the White House? Maybe winning will be redefined as Obama states in yesterday’s Senate hearing, as “a messy, sloppy status quo but there's not huge outbreaks of violence, there's still corruption, but the country is struggling along, but it's not a threat to its neighbors and it's not an al-Qaida base.”

What ever the definition, and whatever the politics, Patton’s words ring true today as they did 50 years ago. Americans love a winner, and will not tolerate a loser. Whichever candidate that can best portray themselves as having a winning strategy, or at least best cast blame for losing on someone else, will have an advantage in the upcoming election.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Strategy for Success TWO AND A HALF YEARS LATER?

The article from which excerpts are posted (below) was posted on August 29, 2005. Many soldiers who have served in Iraq comment about the "GroundHog Day" effect - that is, same thing day in, day out, no progress, no regress, just a grind of the same thing again and again and again.

Today Gen. Petraeus is testifying about progress in Iraq and the "success" of the surge.

Reading excerpts from a post from OVER TWO AND A HALF YEARS AND THOUSANDS OF LIVES AGO and see if we have made any "progress" yet:

A Strategy For Success

Amid the two extremes of "stay the course" and "pull out now" comes a third option - do what it takes to win in Iraq.

The September/October edition of Foreign Affairs contains an article by Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. entitled "How to Win in Iraq."

The basic problem is that the United States and its coalition partners have never settled on a strategy for defeating the insurgency and achieving their broader objectives. On the political front, they have been working to create a democratic Iraq, but that is a goal, not a strategy. On the military front, they have sought to train Iraqi security forces and turn the war over to them. As President George W. Bush has stated, "Our strategy can be summed up this way: as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." But the president is describing a withdrawal plan rather than a strategy.

Without a clear strategy in Iraq, moreover, there is no good way to gauge progress. Senior political and military leaders have thus repeatedly made overly optimistic or even contradictory declarations. In May of 2004, for example, following the insurgent takeover of Fallujah, General Richard Myers, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated, "I think we're on the brink of success here." Six months later, before last November's offensive to recapture the city, General John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, said, "When we win this fight — and we will win — there will be nowhere left for the insurgents to hide." Following the recapture, Lieutenant General John Sattler, the Marine commander in Iraq, declared that the coalition had "broken the back of the insurgency." Yet in the subsequent months, the violence continued unabated. Nevertheless, seven months later Vice President Dick Cheney claimed that the insurgency was in its "last throes," even as Lieutenant General John Vines, commander of the multinational corps in Iraq, was conceding, "We don't see the insurgency expanding or contracting right now." Most Americans agree with this less optimistic assessment: according to the most recent polls, nearly two-thirds think the coalition is "bogged down."

The administration's critics, meanwhile, have offered as their alternative "strategy" an accelerated timetable for withdrawal. They see Iraq as another Vietnam and advocate a similar solution: pulling out U.S. troops and hoping for the best. The costs of such premature disengagement would likely be calamitous. The insurgency could morph into a bloody civil war, with the significant involvement of both Syria and Iran. Radical Islamists would see the U.S. departure as a victory, and the ensuing chaos would drive up oil prices.

Instead of a timetable for withdrawal, the United States needs a real strategy built around the principles of counterinsurgency warfare. To date, U.S. forces in Iraq have largely concentrated their efforts on hunting down and killing insurgents. The idea of such operations is to erode the enemy's strength by killing fighters more quickly than replacements can be recruited. Although it is too early to tell for sure whether this approach will ultimately bring success, its current record is not good: even when an attack manages to inflict serious insurgent casualties, there is little or no enduring improvement in security once U.S. forces withdraw from the area.

Instead, U.S. and Iraqi forces should adopt an "oil-spot strategy" in Iraq, which is essentially the opposite approach. Rather than focusing on killing insurgents, they should concentrate on providing security and opportunity to the Iraqi people, thereby denying insurgents the popular support they need. Since the U.S. and Iraqi armies cannot guarantee security to all of Iraq simultaneously, they should start by focusing on certain key areas and then, over time, broadening the effort — hence the image of an expanding oil spot. Such a strategy would have a good chance of success. But it would require a protracted commitment of U.S. resources, a willingness to risk more casualties in the short term, and an enduring U.S. presence in Iraq, albeit at far lower force levels than are engaged at present. If U.S. policymakers and the American public are unwilling to make such a commitment, they should be prepared to scale down their goals in Iraq significantly.

Simply put, we either win or fail. If failing costs more than winning then we should win. And "not losing" is failing.

Krepinevich is the author of The Army and Vietnam, and none of his ideas are new. Neither are the most effective battle drills, and for the same reasons - they have proven effective time and again.

In the same issue is an excellent article by F. Gregory Gause III on how democratization is not automatically in our best interests.

The United States is engaged in what President George W. Bush has called a "generational challenge" to instill democracy in the Arab world. The Bush administration and its defenders contend that this push for Arab democracy will not only spread American values but also improve U.S. security. As democracy grows in the Arab world, the thinking goes, the region will stop generating anti-American terrorism. Promoting democracy in the Middle East is therefore not merely consistent with U.S. security goals; it is necessary to achieve them.

But this begs a fundamental question: Is it true that the more democratic a country becomes, the less likely it is to produce terrorists and terrorist groups? In other words, is the security rationale for promoting democracy in the Arab world based on a sound premise? Unfortunately, the answer appears to be no.

In the comments somebody called "American Citizen" wrote - TWO AND A HALF YEARS AGO - the following:

J.D. writes "Simply put, we either win or fail. If failing costs more than winning then we should win. And "not losing" is failing."

What if winning costs more than failing?

What if we win (make America safer) by losing in Iraq?

The goal we should hold above all others is to make America safer. That was the putative goal of the initial invasion - to find WMDs. The retrospective justification for the invasion - Iraqi democracy - would hopefully make us safer.

There are three large effects of "staying the course":
1) In the struggle amongst various Iraqi factions for power, we put our thumb decisively on the Iraqi government side. This means creating law and order in some places where there wouldn't be otherwise.
2) Anti-American Iraqi forces continue to attack us. the positive effect is that perhaps that draws anti-Iraqi-government fire away from the Iraqu government, troops, and police. There is a large human cost to us, and any unfortunate civilians caught in the crossfire or near bomb blasts.
3) Anti-American foreigners will sneak into Iraq. Many will lose their jihadi spirit by becoming casualties or by getting it out of their system. Others will return to their native countries, or our country, and cause trouble.

The Iraqi constitution looks set to create a fractious theocracy, so is effect #1 all that important? Once we go, would it matter so much who is in charge, given that we can't seem stage-manage a Turkish or Indonesian-type result?

I think we should do what we can in the short-term, whether it's the suggestions put forth by Mr. Krepinevich, or the recent WaPo op-ed by Gen. Wesley Clark. If that doesn't work, or if we "stay the course" with no change in strategy or tactics, we will better off conducting a staged withdrawal and accepting the loss. After all, you don't reinforce failure, and we still need to find Osama bin Laden.

I responded:

American Citizen asks "What if we win (make America safer) by losing in Iraq?"

Simple. Then we lose. And quickly. And we will be better off for it. If pulling out tomorrow helps America then we should have done it yesterday.

However, I don't think the list of reasons you have for "Staying the Course" is exhaustive. There are certainly other reasons we should stay and win besides Iraqi democracy or what is the best for the Iraqi people. I tend to view the world in views of what is best for America - period. What is best for the Iraqi people enters into my thinking only as to what impact it will have on the American people. I think "accepting the loss" should not be viewed from an "ego" standpoint, but from an honest assessment of what impact such a loss will have on our national security in both the long and short term. I think that Iraq has parallels with Vietnam (most especially when it comes to politicans ignoring sound military advice) but there is one clear difference: when we "declared victory and went home" in Vietnam our loss (for that is what it was) hurt us in the short term, but not in the long term. True, losing sucked, but we won the Cold War, our military might increased relative to the rest of the world thereafter, and the "trade" we lost in Vietnam was miniscule. Vietnam grows rice and exports shrimp. Oh well. Iraq is different. It is not only incredibly oil-rich, it is surrounded by unstable and hostile regimes vital to our national security. We don't run our economy on rice. We do on oil. And Vietnam doesn't and never did have the ability to attack us at home. Iran is working on nukes, and Pakistan has them. Iraq is much, much, much more important to our national security than Vietnam ever was. And the oil wealth in that region also translates into money, and into power. We don't want that power used against us. Even if we were self-sufficient in energy the region would be a vital national interest.

And I think I was clear that I view "staying the course" is not a recipe for winning, but merely for not losing "yet."

Just as there were an infinite number of possibilities in between the false choice of "invade or appease," there are many courses of action between "get out now" and "stay the course."

Clearly articulated goals should be provided to the American people, along with honest and competent analysis of the costs of victory v the costs of defeat. Any blind non-reasoning "victory is always better" thinking should be recognized for what it is - a lack of thinking. Any "we must immediately pull out because we will lose more if we don't" should likewise be put into the same category. Then we can rationally decide what the better course of action is based upon the costs and benefits of various options, from immediate pull-out to a "generational commitment" to "stay the course" and everything in between.

My take now? That we are not prepared to do what it takes to win in Iraq in terms of manpower. A draft would be needed, plus more money (higher taxes are already needed given the size of our debt today), plus lots else (the military alone can not win this war).

If we are not going to win then we need to get out. I think we need to get out because we are clearly not doing what it will take to win, just "not lose just yet."

GroundHog Day, all over again.

When should we get out? Two and a half years ago would have been a good time.

Your thoughts?


As most of you know, Phil is taking Intel-Dump to the Washington Post. I wish him the best of luck. Thank you Phil!

My favorite part of the Dump was the comments, though. The level of discourse, the (usual) civility, and the ability to "vent" were all what brought me to the Dump. I don't think that is possible on a blog that is part of the Washington Post.

I would like to try it here. To comment you need to sign up with Google - which you should do anyway, Gmail is amazing - and then you can comment here.

For regulars, please try and keep your old names so we know who FDChief is, Seydlitz, etc.

And thanks to all for the kind and unexpected words about me over at the last Intel-Dump post.

To start this thread, what about Gen. Petraeus' testimony today? Did it ring true, was it clear and forthright, or did it appear he was parroting the White House in a partisan way? Either way, was it accurate, and if not, why not? What facts were wrong, or missing?

Please comment away, for me that is the best part - the conversation.