Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What Are We Waiting For? 

John Batchelor asks the question in a provocative NY Sun opinion piece this morning. His rhetorical question is intended to assert that the Iranian threat is so crystal clear, the coming war so plainly obvious, that the US -- by failing to act preemptively -- is assuring itself of a mass casualty event prior to going to battle with the Mullahs.

And yet, I think the answer is obvious -- demonstrated by the unity in Israel, on the one hand, and the division in the US, on the other, regarding war.

Despite the external controversy associated with Israel's reaction to the Hezbollah assault and subsequent war, the entire Israeli polity, left to right, is unified in its support for the War against Hezbollah. All of Israel is threatened by Hezbollah, Iran and Syria. It makes war mobilization and warfighting much clearer and simpler.

By contrast, the US polity is not unified on the matter of warfighting in the Middle East. Some see an existential threat arising from Islamism, others do not. This has made it politically impossible to preempt Iran. Therefore, it seems to me that we are likely to face a very unpleasant surprise in advance of any significant military action to upend the current Iranian regime. That surprise could take a number of forms, it seems to me:

1) Iran launches a direct assault against Israel, entering the war on behalf of Hezbollah
2) Iran launches a direct assault against Iraq, in an effort to promote a pro-Iranian regime in Iraq and bloody America's nose
3) Iran launches a direct missile assault against a European nation
4) Iran mobilizes embedded terror cells in Europe or the US to conduct an attack

What Iran chooses to do strikes me as dependent on its willingness to incite the US, and therefore its self confidence. It strikes me that the first option has the greatest likelihood of enhancing Iranian power and prestige in the region while inciting the weakest response from the US and Europe.

So what are we waiting for? To get bloodied. To take the first punch, so that there is consensual domestic agreement that we can swing back as hard and as often as we like.


By Blogger Final Historian, at Wed Aug 09, 01:32:00 PM:

Iran is not going after Israel first. Its goal, before dealing with "the Zionist entity", is to build up Shia Islam first. Israel is simply a convenient tool for gaining attention and recognition at this stage.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Aug 09, 01:42:00 PM:

Well, that about sums it up, Cardinalpark. The watershed event is Iran attaining nuclear weapons. The US is paralyzed by dissent and is doing nothing effectively to halt this march to the abyss. Israel will act and has ~ 200 nuke with which to do so. The US will dither until another 9/11 type event happens. Sometimes I really hate it when you are right.  

By Blogger K. Pablo, at Wed Aug 09, 03:02:00 PM:

The situation was well summarized by good ol' Mullah Krekar:

“We have no fear of the Western mindset. It can never be victorious. In Iraq the two sides are facing each other. On the side of Islam are men who love death and are willing to become martyrs for their beliefs. On the other side are soldiers who fight for a 1000 dollars a day. The number of dead American soldiers are proof of defeats. In Afghanistan the same thing is happening. From 2001 to 2004 five suicide attacks occured. In 2005 it was 17. While the US and their allies are becoming smaller, Islam is expanding the front. And the reports from Guantanamo tell the same story. There they try to rip the faith our of the Moslems’ hearts. They fail. In Denmark they printed those cartoons, but the result is that the backing for Islam increases. I and all Moslems are proof of this. You haven’t managed to change us. We are the ones who will change you.”


“Look at the development of the populations in Europe where Moslems are breeding like Mosquitoes. Every western woman produces on average 1.4 children. Every Moslem woman in the same countries produce 3.5 children. In the year 2050, 30 percent of the population of Europe will be Moslems.”

It's going to get a hell of a lot worse before the Free World can unify about anything. By then it might be too late.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Wed Aug 09, 03:25:00 PM:

KP - Ol Mullah Krekar is a bit delusional my friend. There are more American troops stomping around the Middle East than there ever have been, in the history of humanity. From Afghanistan to Iraq to Qatar, Jordan and Saudi, the American military is smoking these jokers. He brags about a handful of suicide bombings, most of which kill more muslims than anybody else. Furthermore, you have sunni clerics -- no jew lovers -- issuing fatwas against Hezbollah in their war against Israel.

On top of being delusional, they're just plain stupid and incompetent. The only thing they have going for them is their utter lunacy. The high watermark for these crackpots was 9/11. Been downhill ever since.

Now, I take the issue of American popular complacency seriously, which is why I wrote what I did in thepost. But as a practical matter, it is hard to see us developing the political will to smoke out Iran absent a significant provocation from them.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Aug 09, 03:38:00 PM:

It sucks, but when you're right, you're right.

It took 9/11 to unify the political parties and partisans behind the President. And that unifying spirit of bipartisanship barely lasted through the opening salvos in Afghanistan. With the current experience and troubles in Iraq fresh in our memories, you won't be able to persuade people that we need to be responsible for yet another country in the middle east.

Without Iran directly affecting our citizens, it will be politically impossible to open up a full-scale shooting war with Iran. I think that if it comes, it will be the terror cells option. It will sting. But our country will survive and we'll fight back. But not until then.  

By Blogger K. Pablo, at Wed Aug 09, 04:29:00 PM:

CP I have nothing but the highest regard and respect for our military forces and their ability to prosecute war. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of their prowess. Maybe I chose the wrong quote from old Mullah Krackhead, but it's his larger point that I worry about: that the Islamist world is not complacent. In fact, quite the opposite.

And it is quite apparent that their strategy is working: witness the near-universal condemnation of Israel's operations in south Lebanon. Quite a PR coup. So I'm not as prepared as you to characterize the architects of this strategy as "stupid and incompetent."

I worry when I see assessments such as yours that we are "fighting the last war"; that our enemies have perceived a paradigm shift in warfighting and we are slow to adapt. They have noticed how comfortable we have become and how easily swayed we are by the media cycle, and they have gone after this achilles heel with all vengeance. Killing them in great numbers is likely not going to go over well with the voters.

So, ultimately, I do agree with you that we might need to "absorb a punch" before we get temporary license to do something vigorous. The last such "punch", 5 years ago this September 11, has been sadly forgotten. We might not be able to withstand the next one without even greater casualties; this situation has been analyzed in great depth by Alan Dershowitz. The time for pre-emption is now, and that's the new paradigm. The window of opportunity is closing rapidly. I interpret the invasion of south Lebanon as a strategic attempt to catalyze a military confrontation with Iran sooner rather than later.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Wed Aug 09, 06:06:00 PM:

KP - I don't think the islamist strategy is working strategically. Yes, they are killing people and inciting mayhem and generally they suck. But strategic success would mean they had advanced the ball in some meaningful way -- territorially or spiritually or something. None of that is true. In southern lebanon, Hezbollah has managed to do something very few others seem to be able to do -- namely unify the entire Israeli political spectrum for war against them. Even the mother who demanded Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon are demanding MORE aggressive military action in Lebanon. Can you imagine Cindy Sheehan demanding George Bush drop bombs on Iran?

Furthermore, it's the first time in recent memory Israel has been given wide berth to fight a war freely and as they see fit. It's been so long since they had this freedom, it's taking them a few weeks to remember how to do it.

Same thing with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Here these lunatics finally get control of a country (having finally killed the Northern Alliance leader on 9/8/01) and they incite the US (via 9/11) to invade god forsaken Afghanistan. So 30 days later, they have no territory again.

They are delusional, incompetent lunatics. The Vietnamese were not. The Germans were not. The Japanese were not. The Koreans were not. As a result, we lost a lot of people in those wars. Oh, yes, and we killed infinitely more as well. In these wars against Islamic lunatics, when we do get serious, and they incite us, we do and will embarrass them with ease (by any historical measure).

Let's imagine for a moment that Iran actually gets nuclear capability, puts it on a long range missile, targets it, fires it and it actually works and hits an Israeli target. It will cause unbearable, horrible, unimaginable destruction wherever it hits.

What do you think will be left of Iran when that happens? How many Islamist crackpot lunatics will be dead when that happens?

I desperately hope it doesn't happen. But we shouldn't confuse radical Islamic lunacy and aggression with actual capability and competence. Their weapon is their perceived lunacy, their apparent willingness to die for their cause and the lack of constraint they have in moral methodology. Once they use the card and draw blood, our political will to deliver the raw end of american military power will be unified and unbound.  

By Blogger C. Owen Johnson, at Wed Aug 09, 09:34:00 PM:

"I worry when I see assessments such as yours that we are "fighting the last war"; that our enemies have perceived a paradigm shift in warfighting and we are slow to adapt. They have noticed how comfortable we have become and how easily swayed we are by the media cycle, and they have gone after this achilles heel with all vengeance."

K. Pablo is missing a crucial point here; admittedly it's very easy to miss. The point, very simply, is in this new kind of war we are fighting, if you are aware of what the enemy is doing, he's doing it badly.

I've been hearing over & over for years that we are losing the IW side of this war. Not so. The essence of IW is capturing the decision-making process of the enemy by control his appreciation of the situation. So, almost by definition, if you perceive an IW campaign against you, it is not working. We perceive their IW against us. They do not perceive ours against them. We are winning and the Cardinalpark is essentially correct in this.

About the political impossibility question, I am less certain.  

By Blogger K. Pablo, at Wed Aug 09, 10:26:00 PM:

Nemesis, I would be enormously re-assured if you could cite some examples where our IW campaign has made any kind of dent in either the resolve or the capabilities of the enemy. I concede we may have flipped Libya; but they have castrated Spain and Italy. By my reckoning, an irreducible one-third of the U.S. electorate is moonbat liberal collaborationists, and they're making a credible play for the undecided middle-third of public opinion who are war-weary, portending a largescale transfer of power this autumn. Mere awareness of, e.g., Pallywood does not hamper its efficacy whatsoever; ask your nearest NPR listener if he has even heard of it.

I foresee a two-year period of idiotic decision making as the legislature goes Democrat while the remaining Republicans are cowed into silence. During this time, a cagey Ahmadinejad would do well to lay low and bide his time. It is my hope we can entice him into attacking prematurely. Otherwise, the punch will land here.

BTW, I do not think the alignment of Sunni governments against Iranian adventurism can be cited as a victory of our IW efforts. We removed the Sunni bulwark against the mullahs: his name was Saddam Hussein. We degraded the hell out of Sunni Islamists and so naturally Shiite Twelvers have stepped into the breach. It's similar to when you prescribe antibiotics to someone and they end up with a yeast infection: we merely changed the balance of harmful microbes, not their capacity to cause disease.  

By Blogger C. Owen Johnson, at Thu Aug 10, 12:26:00 AM:

K Pablo. This is topic that is extremely difficult to address in a comment, both because of the nature of the conflict which includes this large perception-based component and because I quit doing this kind of work in 2002 and am not longer current. So I can infer broad outlines, but not much more. Finally, there are things I know and cannot reveal.

You are correct in much of what you say, although I think the Moonbat brigade is smaller than you do. As to what will happen this November, I don’t know; there is much turmoil and it’s not my area expertise. However, I’m more optimistic on that front than you seem to be, for what it’s worth. Your point about the Iran moving into the vacuum left by Saddam is quite correct, but it’s also not a failure of our strategy, just something predictable — like the yeast infection — that has to be dealt with in it’s turn.

As for examples, I first need to stress that it’s crucial in IW who you target, based on your understanding of the enemy’s decision cycle. They are choosing soft targets and so far it has not worked; they’ve been able to tweak poll numbers but not affect our decision making in any important way, shake Bush’s resolve — which is what matters, not what you or think — or make us change our strategy. Importantly, they have not gotten us to abandon Iraq, which was key to them. But we have also conned them into thinking their strategy is a winning one, getting them to expend resources and expose themselves in ways that ultimately benefit us. Some of this is deliberate and some is just he way we are, which they don’t understand. But this is probably not the place to go on about this at length.

Secondly, we aren’t running just an IW campaign, so I can’t separate an IW success from military success — there is no such thing. Our warfighting has a major IW component and we have used it effectively to get bad guys to play into ours hands. Anyway, you asked for examples: taking down the Taliban is very good example one of the easiest to understand. Libya, which you pointed out, is another example though perhaps more of a diplomatic triumph. Isolating and splitting the terrorists in Iraq is an example, so is Pakistan. At the non-national level, we have a lot of success against AQ and other terrorists. So I would cite no successful terrorist attacks on the US since 9/11 as another success.

To put these in some perspective, you cite our flipping Libya vs their success against Italy and Spain. But Italy and Spain contribute nothing to our side of the conflict except Italian INTEL cooperation, which we still have [I don’t know much about Spain]. They don’t even contribute significant prestige or political advantage here or abroad. When Spain was on our side, there were not a bunch of people who supported us whose support we then lost when they voted the other way. That can be said of the whole of Old Europe [I don’t include Britain in Europe here]; and of Russia and China, and most of the rest of the world. Other than INTEL support, what goes on with them is all part of the game and it serves our purposes much more than theirs, because again we influence their decision making in ways that are ultimately advantageous to us.

Compare that to Libya. Libya was huge. It was huge because Libya is where Saddam’s nuke program really was. Our enemies are not stupid — they knew that building nukes in any one country was too easy to detect and respond to, so they farmed it. Dr Khan’s network key in this of course and Libya was a key node. By taking out Saddam [the money], exposing Khan [the technical capability], and then flipping Libya [manufacturing of key components] ,we gutted a network that would have put nukes in the hand of all sorts of nasty people by now, if not sooner. That’s one big dent in their capability.

As for resolve, I would argue that we have put a big dent in AQ’s resolve, and substantially eroded it’s international support. I say this on a local tactical level and on the larger national level. AQ used to enjoy the state support of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now it’s who? Somalia maybe? The Taliban used to enjoy the state support of Pakistan; they no longer do. Yes, elements in Pakistan still support them just as elements in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and elsewhere offer support to AQ and other terrorists, but there is a big difference between that and state support. So I count those as putting a dent in our enemy’s resolve.

When I count these against what the terrorists have accomplished since 9/11, I say we are making great progress. One can quibble I suppose about how these success should be classified, but my point is that our IW efforts are tightly integrated into everything we do from military ops to counter-terrorist “police” activities to diplomacy; so much so that they are no longer distinguishable — I’m not sure the military even calls it IW anymore. It just part of what we do. That why I took issue with your statement that we are behindhand when in fact, we leapfrogged. That’s why so few noticed.

Finally when Cardinalpark characterizes our enemies as delusional, incompetent lunatics, he not entirely wrong. But what is more important is that the IW of our strategy has made the their delusions and incompetence matter. The key in IW is to get your enemy to do dumb things you can then exploit by other means, and I think part of why they appear so incompetent that we are having significant success against them.
To be clear, we don’t always know exactly how or why our efforts work, and things can work in ways we didn’t anticipate, even when they work. Nor do I want to oversell our capabilities or imply we can say that every time they make a mistake, we can say: “See! We made them do that!” But I do think we are doing markedly better than our enemies are.  

By Blogger JAF, at Thu Aug 10, 12:28:00 AM:

What are we waiting for?

For Bush to grow a pair. I'm afraid we didn't vote in a leader, but rather a wimp.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Aug 10, 02:34:00 AM:

How about the terror bunnies just like to blow things up with no rhyme or reason. To get on the news. Just like those katpussy rockets sent into to Israel with no intention at all to strike a specfic place. Here's Fox News of a plan to blow up in mid air (if I get it correct)between England and the USA.

By Blogger Abu Muhammad, at Thu Aug 10, 04:16:00 AM:

The problem maybe is, that smart people discuss things. In that way they understand them better. This is actually a good thing to do. But it can be problematic when discussion stalls action and in the meantime stupid killers gather their energies to kill the "smart people".

Abu thinks: Evolutionary smartness is different from intellectual smartness. And that is the infidel's problem. The may be squashed, but they will say something wise about it. Look at the animal kingdom, if you will: Dolphins might be very intelligent - it still is the rats who will survive.

Not understanding this is in Abu's humble opinion maybe the main reason for the West's failure in the moment.

Now, to quote the beloved Zionist Jobs... "One more thing": Please allow Abu to show you this funny before-after-montage!

A wonderful Friday to all you infidels!
Abu ;-)  

By Blogger Pax Federatica, at Thu Aug 10, 11:32:00 AM:

You've all touched on a point that I've recently blogged about. That is that the war in Iraq has exposed a major built-in flaw in the pre-emptive war doctrine.

A pre-emptive war is like any other kind of war, in that (1) it only serves its purpose if you win it, and (2) it may not be inherently immoral, but it is inherently amoral. For a nation to commit to winning a war means making winning the war by whatever means necessary its #1 priority - and yes, that means above holding the mnral high ground.

What we're seeing now in Iraq and Iran tells me that it may require a proven imminent existential threat to the West - precisely the sort of thing the doctrine of pre-emptive war is intended to eliminate - to make most Americans willing to make that kind of moral sacrifice.  

By Blogger K. Pablo, at Thu Aug 10, 05:17:00 PM:

Nemesis I appreciate your attempt to tackle this huge subject in your last post. I suppose I'd like to target my comments in reply to your optimism about the collaborationist fifth column within the U.S. Just today James Taranto writes, in Opinion Journal:

"Remember what Michael Moore wrote on Sept. 12, 2001? Allow us to refresh your memory:

Many families have been devastated tonight. This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes' destination of California--these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!

Why kill them? Why kill anyone?

Compare this to Josh Marshall's Sept. 12 posting:

I'm not accustomed to watching George W. Bush give a speech and hoping he hits it out of the park. But that was certainly my feeling last night as the president addressed the nation about yesterday's bombing. And on balance I'd say he came through with flying colors.

Now, compare both to Marshall's immediate reaction to the 8/10 terror bust (ellipsis in original):

As I've written before, I have next to no confidence that this administration won't pump exaggerated or bogus terror plots for short term political advantage. Especially as we move toward an election they seem likely to lose. But when the Brits completely shut down their major international airport (though now the shutdown seems to be easing) I'm quite ready to believe they found something very real.

Rove and his crew of course will stop at no end of bamboozlement and terror manipulation for political ends though. And the timing, well . . .

In 2006, a comparatively mainstream Democratic partisan like Marshall sounds remarkably similar to the way a fringe figure like Moore sounded five years ago. What are we to make of this?"

It does not take much digging to find agitprop from organizations like A.N.S.W.E.R. that reads like a verbatim transcript of one of bin-Laden's or al-Zawahiri's amateur fatwas. When it becomes mainstream, though, I can't help but count it as a IW victory for Mutant Islamist irhabists. For us to claim an equivalent IW coup, we would have to document an increasing clamor for classical liberal human rights emanating from mainstream Islamic figures. Their silence is deafening. The strong horse scores again. The weak horse votes for Lamont and prepares to Throw The Bums Out.  

By Blogger C. Owen Johnson, at Thu Aug 10, 08:03:00 PM:

K Pablo: I appreciate your points, though one of my beefs with pundits is that they consistently use anecdotal evidence to argue the general from the particular. But accepting the point anyway, since I don’t think it’s entirely wrong, I think we may have an apples & oranges thing going on here. The key is decision making. Moving part of mainstream opinion is important only to the extent it affects policy in the way the enemy desires. So far, it hasn’t done that — it could, but it hasn’t yet. If the next couple of elections go badly, I’m going to have to change my tune. [Given of course that a change in leadership actually results in a substantive change in policy.]

I don’t agree with equivalence you suggest though, for several reasons, but mostly because right now I don’t think that’s what we are trying to do. Our goal in that regard is not to shift Islamic mainstream opinion in favor of classical liberal human rights, but against terrorism. The distinction is that of convincing them that the terrorists can be beaten and are being beaten by us, not so much that terrorism is bad because it violates basic human rights. The former is what we have done to substantial degree in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By convincing them that we are beating the terrorists, we motivate them to withdraw their support, without which the terrorists cannot operate. The fanatics may never surrender, may never admit defeat, but if the greater society they depend on becomes convinced they are being beaten they will effectively surrender them to us. We can’t win unless this happens.

In the longer run, by appearing stronger than the terrorists, we get the credibility needed to instill classical liberal values in Islamic populations. That, and by demonstrating that our way leads to greater prosperity for them, not just us. But this follows from our current strategy, which has a different goal and hence a different measure of success.  

By Blogger snowonpine, at Sat Aug 12, 04:28:00 PM:

I don't buy Bush's formula about a small band of extemists hijacking Islam for their own twisted ends concept. The cult of Muhammad--the "Perfect Msn" always to be emulated-- the Qur'an and Hadith, the commentaries and the juridical, philosophical and religious doctrines, the world-view that flow from them. that have made Islam what it is, these are the problem and have been for almost 1,400 years--the terrorists a merely the point men for the religiously sanctioned duty to conquer, kill or convert Infidels that oil money has reanimated. The much greater army, 1.3 billion strong, is waiting in the wings, observing and biding its time, deciding which way to jump and if this is the time that Islam will finally conquer the world.

The many similarities to the mental state of the world prior to the outbreak of WWII, that several commentators have pointed to, are regretably all too real. I am afraid I agree that we are going to get hit, and that it will take such a tragedy to motivate enough decision-makers and members of the public to support the military and diplomatic steps that will then need to be taken. I am concerned that if such an attack does not happen on Bush's watch, we may find that the next president--Democrat or Republican--may not have enough vision to see what needs to be done or enough guts and ruthlessness to do it, regardless of what the consequences might be for him personally or for his party.

I have also noticed on other boards the notion that, when the day comes that we have to really go to war, the U.S. could field, say, 5 or 6 million soldiers if it wanted to and 30,000,000 if it were pressed to the wall. Such notions ignore the time it takes to turn raw recruits into even minimally competent soldiers and the massive amounts of equipment and logistical support a military this size would take. The U.S., as usual after a war i.e. the Cold War, has enthusiastically reduced its military and junked billions upon billions in ships, aircraft, tanks and equipment; only a very little has been mothballed. There are also very significant production bottlenecks in producing much less surge production of, for example, both military aircraft and tanks. All of this also ignores the fact that the pace and scope of the kind of war that would be fought today and the reach and power of the weapons used would deny us the time and security that the U.S. had to rearm in WWII.

All in all, I think we are in for one hellacious and very dangerous ride with an uncertain destination indeed.  

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