Friday, November 11, 2005

It was about time!

Today, as Americans celebrate Veterans Day and Europeans remember the armistice that ended WWI, President Bush delivered a speech discussing the War on Terror.

The speech is very similar to the one I commented on some time ago. Different, however, is that the President lashes out at those that want to rewrite history on the run-up to the war.

This is what he said:

And our debate at home must also be fair-minded. One of the hallmarks of a free society and what makes our country strong is that our political leaders can discuss their differences openly, even in times of war. When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support. I also recognize that some of our fellow citizens and elected officials didn't support the liberation of Iraq. And that is their right, and I respect it. As President and Commander-in-Chief, I accept the responsibilities, and the criticisms, and the consequences that come with such a solemn decision.

While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. (Applause.) Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.

They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. And many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: "When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security." That's why more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate -- who had access to the same intelligence -- voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power. (Applause.)

The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges. (Applause.) These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them. (Applause.) Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. (Applause.) And our troops deserve to know that whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united, and we will settle for nothing less than victory. (Applause.)
Amen. It was about time. We can't always do the work for him.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Progress in Iraq

Several times now I've said that we're winning in Iraq.

We're Winning
See I Told You So
War Update
Iraq War Update
Winds of War: Progressing in Iraq
How We're going to Win
We're Winning II
Al-Zawahiri's letter to al-Zarqawi

And there are probalby more that I just can't find but you get the point.

Everyone knows that the Sunnis are behind the insurgency. If not for their support it would have withered long ago. The invaluable StrategyPage believes that this support will not last much longer:

For the last two years, the big mystery in Iraq, at least among Iraqis and American intelligence officer, was how long will the Sunni Arabs continue to fund and support attacks on the Iraqi government. The Sunni Arabs could have cut a deal with the Kurds and Shia Arabs in 2003, but instead, most decided to stick with the Baath Party and Saddam Hussein, and try to regain control of the country via terrorism and force. There was plenty of money for this effort. Saddam and his Sunni Arab cronies had stolen billions, and a lot of it was gotten out of the country before the invasion, and after that, there were still millions hidden away in Sunni Arab communities. With that money, you could hire lots of Sunni Arabs, including former secret policemen, Republican Guard soldiers, and assorted bad guys, to go after the Americans, and any new Iraqi government officials, or Iraqis that supported the new government.

How will this this cycle of money be stopped? Simple, in a way; you don't go after the money, but the money handlers:

It’s not that the bad guys are running out of money, or people willing to die for a few hundred bucks. What the terrorists are running out of is Sunni Arab leaders willing to continue tolerating the violence. Each month, a few more neighborhoods shift sides, becoming an unwelcome place for terrorists, and more tolerant of Iraqi soldiers and police. American intelligence and the Iraqi government each have lists of the key Sunni Arab tribal, religious and business leaders they need to convert or, in a few cases, kill, in order to end the Sunni Arab violence. Each month, especially since the January elections (that elected the interim government), one percent, or a few percent, of the people on that list, move over to the government side. Another few percent become potential converts. By the end of the year, over half these Sunni Arab big shots will be out of the terrorism business.

More American Casualties

"But aren't we losing more Americans?" You will hear this from the naysayers. One obvious response is to point out the fallacy of linear modes of thinking when it comes to warfare. Wherever did we get the notion that casualties are supposed to decrease as the war progresses? Must we remind them that the two battles that cost the most American lives in World War II, the Battle of the Bulge and Okinawa, came only months before the end of the war (in their respective theaters)?

All this is true. But again we turn to StrategyPage for details on our current conflict:

The fighting in Iraq is changing, as the Sunni Arab homeland (central and western Iraq) are more aggressively patrolled by American and Iraqi forces. This has put more small U.S. bases in Sunni Arab neighborhoods, and made it more dangerous for the 75,000 civilian contractors working for the American military.

More agressive patrolling means more casualties. We could "hunker down", but then we'd lose. A terrible thing to contemplate, really, that one must be agressive and lose good people to win. But there it is.

Why don't we know all this? Well, some of it is due to incompetent reporting, but that's too easy an answer. StrategyPage again throws some light upon the matter:

First, the military prefers discussions of their strategy and tactics stay out of the news (where the enemy can see it.) The enemy in Iraq often makes mistakes, employing ineffective tactics and the like. Because the communications between the various anti-government groups in Iraq is improvised, it takes a while for everyone to find out that some great new roadside bomb design, or other combat tactic no longer works. The reason is usually that the American and Iraqi troops have come up with a new gadget or tactic. The American and Iraqi troops have excellent communications, and can distribute information much more rapidly and completely than the terrorist and anti-government groups can. The good guys want to work their advantage as long as possible.

Another reason for not reporting military news is that it is often complex news, and it is often positive (for the Americans and Iraqis) news. These are two no-nos in the news business. Keep it simple, keep it negative, and you will grab the most eyeballs. The news business is a business, and what's best for business is bad news, the more negative, simple and sensational the better. That's why spectacular disasters always make the news. On a slow news day, you can keep people interested by reporting automobile accidents. There are many of them, most people can relate to such incidents, and some of them, each day, are spectacular.

There's another factor; the Three Year Rule. In all of America's wars, popular support for the war effort sharply declined after three years. Even though the government said, from late September, 2001 on, that the war on terror would be a long one, this has not changed the impact of the Three Year War. If you can't get it over with within three years, you are going to face more and more voter opposition to the war effort. Go back and look at the history of all of America's long (over three years) wars and you will see this play out.

Ok, so let me make the obligatory statement so that I'm not misunderstood, that no I'm not saying that everything is hunky-dory in Iraq. Much can go wrong. But much can, and is, going right. So there.

Almost all Americans today believe that the Revolution, Civil War(from the North's standpoint) and World War II were worth fighting. And we have this vision of everyone linking arms and marching off to fight some enemy that everyone agreed was evil.

Were that it was the case in reality.

As just about any history book will tell you, only 1/3 of the colonists wanted independence from Great Britain. A full third were loyalysts, and the last third didn't care. Glad we didn't take a poll then, huh?

Today everyone thinks that it was right to fight the Civil War (again, from the North's perspective) in order to end slavery. I do. What we forget is that the Lincoln didn't fight it to end slavery (at least not at first) but to keep the Union together. And many or most Union soldiers certainly weren't fighting to end slavery.

And the war certainly became unpopular quickly, once everyone saw that it wasn't going to be the quick victory they had anticipated. In fact it became so unpopular that neither army could fill it's ranks and had to resort to conscription. Anti-war sentiment in the North became so fierce that in the presidential election of 1864 the Democrats ran on an "end the war" platform. Lincoln was convinced he was going to lose the election until a few timely victories turned the tide of public opinion.

And World War II? Well, it was popular once we got involved. But before December 7 we wanted nothing to do with it. We had come to believe that our involvement in WWI was a mistake, and we blamed our entry on arms manufacturers (google for Nye Commission). Polls showed that 80-90% of Americans didn't want to aid Britain in her fight against Nazism. Fortunately FDR had the foresight to ignore the polls and help Britain through Lend-Lease and fighting what amounted to a secret war in the Atlantic against German U-Boats (check this out if you don't believe me). Even after Pearl Harbor, Americans wanted to go after Japan, not Germany. The people were dismayed and resistant to Roosevent's "Germany First" strategy. All this is just about unbelievable today, but there it is.

So we just have to hang in there and eventually we'll have this thing one. Fifty years from now they'll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Tuesday Update

Yesterday I reported on progress in Iraq, citing two articles posted on StrategyPage. Looks like Bill Roggio saw them also and agrees with me.

The political war against the Sunni-led insurgency proceeds in conjunction with military operations. Strategy Page details how successful military operations help feed the success on the political front. Intelligence on the Sunni leadership is gained via the death or capture of terrorists and insurgents, or suspected insurgents, which in turn is used to identify the players in the insurgency. A picture of the insurgency develops over time, and the Coalition acts by either enticing the leaders to join the political process, or kill them if required.

See, I told you so.

Roggio, one of the most prolific and comprehensive war bloggers, is traveling to Iraq shortly, and will "imbed" with the Marines of Regimental Combat Team – 2 in the Anbar Province. Roggio is perhaps best known for his day-to-day coverage of military operations in Iraq, always with an eye to the larger picture. Because this is a private project that requires much funding, if you can spare a few dollars, please go to his website and contribute.

There is much other good news to report about Iraq also.

Marc at USS Neverdock cites several articles that tell of vast improvements in security on the road from Baghdad to the city airport. You'll also want to check out the comments. Predictably, the trolls on his side can't stand the idea that we might be making progress.

National Review, also perhaps fed up with the coverage of the war by the MSM, has a new "good news" section on their website. Here are a few of the articles that have appreared there recently:

There Is Progress: Where the success is in Iraq
Professor Mackubin Owens points out a number of areas where we're making progress, from the new constitution to the Iraqi army.

Soccer Victories: This is what we’re about If you've ever wondered about whether sending something as simple as a soccer ball to our troops can make a difference, wonder no more. The generosity of Americans is helping us win. We all have a part to play in this war.

Winning, One Student at a Time: American and Iraqi patriots at work in Iraq A moving story about Iraqis and Americans are working to rebuild the country despite threats, some of which do result in patriots being killed.

“The Right Place at the Right Time” A Navy lieutenant on serving in Iraq Michael Fumento, imbedded with the Marines in Falujah last May, writes about progress in that city.