Saturday, May 20, 2006


I was born in California and as a child, watched Sesame Street (a new show at the time) which was pretty much half in English and half in Spanish. In fact, I could count higher in Spanish than I could in English as a child. About half our neighborhood was of Latino descent and a lot of the kids were my friends. Today, I have two teenage daughters and they will both be in high school next year. My youngest is going to take Spanish as her foreign language and I've asked her to bring her books home so I could learn it with her. Obviously, I have no problem with Spanish or speaking Spanish. Having said that, this is the United States of America and the predominate language for the last 225 plus years, has been and still is English. Making English the official National Language makes sense.

What I would like to know, Mr. Reid, how does that make me racist? I could not believe it when he said that! No one said Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, Yiddish, Croatian, Russian, German and so on and so on could not be spoken, we would merely like English to be recognized as the National Language! Nathan Tabor put it this way:
Be afraid folks. Be very afraid. Thursday’s travesty on the Senate floor is just one more example of Democrats kowtowing to special interest groups, in yesterday’s case, illegal immigrants.

Senator Jame Inhofe (R-OK) proposed an amendment to the overhaul of a new immigration bill that would declare English as our national language.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid declared that Inhofe’s proposed amendment "…is directed at people who speak Spanish," an interesting charge in light of the fact that Inhofe himself is fluent in Spanish. Reid’s statement, however, totally ignores the thousands of Chinese sneaking into the West Coast or the tens of thousands of Eastern Europeans who operate in the underground economy of illegal workers from New York to Chicago. When in doubt, Harry, play the race card.
The Conservative Voice
What's the matter Harry, are you afraid that by uniting everyone with a common language, thus perpetuating our "melting pot" reputation, will deprive you of votes somehow? No, you can do that all on your own with your crazy ideas! Here is how my Senators voted:
Ohio: DeWine (R-OH), Yea Voinovich (R-OH), Yea
How did your Senators vote? Find out here: Senate Roll Call Vote on Salazar Amendment

President Bush who was the governor of Texas (where Spanish is spoken predominately along the border towns and more) and where he, as a state leader, often communicated with his fellow Texans in Spanish, stated that English should be learned by all immigrants, so that they can assimilate into our society. Does that make him racist? Not to my mind.

Charles Krauthammer, who is French Canadian by birth, reminds us that dual languages really don't work and can actually cause strife, even rioting, as it did in the 60s. I see dual languages as creating an "us and them" mentality instead of uniting people in one language. I think there is enough strife in our country right now, why add to it by making English and Spanish required learning for new immigrants?

Update: Mark (thank you Mark!) pointed out that I had sited the Salazar Amendment instead of the Inhofe Amendment which was more strongly worded and was passed by a much wider margin. See how your Senator voted: Senate Roll Call Vote On Inhofe Amendment

Crossposted: A Rose By Any Other Name

Friday, May 19, 2006

Now Entering Phase IV of the War in Iraq

As I see it, there have been 4 phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom

1) The Initial Invasion

2) Taken by Surprise

3) Finding a New Strategy

4) Consolidating the Government and Taking Down the Militias

1) The Initial Invasion

The March 2003 invasion showed our military at it's finest. It was brilliantly planned and executed. We used just the right amount of troops. We violated all of the old rules of warfare; soften them up with airpower first, the attacker needs to outnumber the defender, don't leave enemy strongpoints in your rear where they can attack your supply lines, and concentrate on destroying each one of the enemies armies in the field.

Yet it all worked perfectly. The relatively small number of troous meant that they could be resupplied easier, didn't get in each other's way in the restricted staging areas in Kuwait, and didn't upset the neighbors. The blitzkrieg-like thrust caught the Iraqis completely off guard. Air strikes led to the disintigration of many Iraqi units despite the short time frame. Supply lines held despite attacks by irregular forces.

Further, none of the things that so many of the naysayers insisted would happen did. There was no "battle of Baghdad" in which the vaunted Republican Guard held off US forces for months. There was no mass humanitarian crisis or flow of refugees. The looting, bad as it was, didn't really have much effect on events outside of pressrooms. And best of all, we weren't hit with chemical or biological weapons.

2) Taken by Surprise

The insurgency was a nasty surprise that was predicted by virtually no one. As the Iraqi Perspectives Project report makes clear, there was no planning by anyone in the Saddam Hussein regime to start an insurgency if they lost the conventional battle.

We were now in the most dangerous part of the war, when we came close to losing control of events. This phase lasted between 18 months and 2 years.

Many of the criticisms leveled at the Bush Administration over our failures are, to be charitable, misguided. I've dealt with many of these fallacies and won't rehash them here.

Much did go wrong, however, and much was our fault. In "What Went Wrong"(digital subscription required), National Review editor Rich Lowry describes them in excruciating detail. Non-subscribers can go to Barbara Lerner's recent article for an assessment of the failures.

Jay Garner, the first person we placed in charge, quickly proved to be not up to the task. His replacement, Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, only had control of the civil authority. Since the military had a separate command structure, this violated the fundamental princple of unity of command.

The CPA set up an Iraqi government called the Iraqi Governing Council, which lasted from July 13, 2003 to June 1, 2004. It proved ineffective and was viewed as illegitimate by most Iraqis. On June 28, 2004, Paul Bremer transfered limited sovereignty to the Iraqi Interim Government. It lasted until the Iraqi Transitional Government took it's place on May 3, 2005. It's main function was to draft a constitution for Iraq, under which new elections would take place.

On the military side, at first we failed to recognise that an insurgency was starting, and when we finally did we failed to form a coherent counter-insurgency strategy to stamp it out. It was at this point that the "more troops!" cry had validity.

The brutal March 2004 lynching of 4 private military contractors in Fallujah led only to an abortive US attempt to recapture the city. We probably should have killed firebrand cleric Moqtada al Sadr in April 2004, but hesitated.

In June of 2004 George Casey replaced Ricardo Sanchez as commanding general in Iraq, the latter sacked over the Abu Ghraib scandal.

3) Finding a New Strategy

It's hard to say exactly when the turn around occured, but my estimate is sometime in late 2004 or early 2005. In April 2005 Rich Lowry felt ready to declare that "We're Winning"(digital subscription required to read entire piece). Lowry summarized the situation as he now found it
If current trends continue, our counter-insurgent campaign in Iraq will be fit to be mentioned in the same breath as the British victory over a Communist insurgency in Malaysia in the 1950s, a textbook example of this form of war. Our counterinsurgency has gone through the same stages as that of the Brits five decades ago: confusion in the initial reaction to the insurgency, followed by a long period of adjustment, and finally the slow but steady erosion of the insurgency's military and political base. Even as there has been a steady diet of bad news about Iraq in the media over the last year, even as some hawks have bailed on the war in despair, even as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has become everyone's whipping boy, the U.S. military has been regaining the strategic upper hand.
In November 2004 we recaptured Fallujah once and for all. Moqtada al Sadr at least doesn't challenge us so directly anymore. The initial failures in establishing and training a new Iraqi Army and police force have been rectified, and we are now at the point where many units can perform capably.

Over the past several months, US casualties have gone down, as have IED attacks, and the Iraqi Army has gotten stronger, these despite no decrease in operational tempo.

al-Qaeda in Iraq's leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's strategy proved to be a losing one.

The Sunnis finally saw that their support of the insurgents was counter-productive, and turned on them. al-Qaeda in Iraq has basically admitted that they're defeated.

As all of this occured, the nature of the violence changed. Much of the recent mayhem is sectarian revenge killing, which was mistaken for a civil war by some. The good news is that the Shias are putting and end to the insurgency. The bad news is that it could devolve into ethnic cleansing unless we deal with the perpetrators (see below).

If you don't want to believe me, three Washington Post articles by Thomas Ricks, who was (or is) in Iraq tell the tale.
The Lessons of Counterinsurgency
U.S. Counterinsurgency Academy Giving Officers a New Mind-Set
In the Battle for Baghdad, U.S. Turns War on Insurgents
And let's not forget David Ignatious Fighting Smarter in Iraq from last Friday's Washington Post.

Richard Fernandez, author of The Belmont Club(and arguably the best WOT blogger out there) doesn't share this opinion that we "got it all wrong at first but are now finally doing it right"
The US is not "finally becoming adept" at fighting in Iraq so much as reaping the result of a two pronged strategy. First, building up indigenous and de-Baathized forces (with a large Shi'ite and Kurdish component) and second, destroying the infrastructure of the insurgency.
He points to the impressive buildup of Iraqi forces as evidence(read his post for details or see the CENTCOM posture statement).

He concludes that
In retrospect three of the decisive weapons of victory in Iraq will have been the 190 military transition teams which raised the new Iraqi Army, the Transitional Administrative Law which made a new coalition government possible, and the US Armed Forces itself, which held up the shield behind which the training and political components could take shape. It now seems fairly clear that many of the 'far better' strategies which were suggested in 2004 and 2005 in place of CENTCOM's may not have been as good as they were made out to be. There were many calls for more American troops on the ground, up to 400,000 men. There were even calls for a return to the draft to rescue a "broken army". It had been suggested that it was a "mistake" to fire the old Saddamite Army, which alone could maintain control, or so it was said. In the end, CENTCOM's strategy did not prove so amateurish after all.
On the political side, the Iraqi Transitional Government finally drafted a new constitution, which Iraqis approved in a October 2005 referendum. The new consitution led to December 2005 elections in which a new parliament was elected. Iraqs are now in the process of forming their first democratic government, one that appears to have the support of most of the people, Shia, Sunni, and Kurd alike.

4) Consolidating the Government and Taking Down the Militias

The current phase of the war will be characterized by our attempt to achieve two goals, one political, and the other military.

On the political side it is imperative that Iraq have a stable government that is accepted by the majority of Iraqis. The recent selection of Jawad al-Maliki as Prime Minister was a good sign that we are moving toward this goal. The next step is to select cabinet ministers, which, just as with the selection of Prime Minister, will involve much negotiation, much of it acrimonious and heated. Then the constitutional issues that were left unresolved last year will have to be settled. All this will take several months, and, like everything else in Iraq, will be very difficult, but is attainable.

Military operations will continue against the insurgency, but as the new Iraqi Army and police gain strength resources will be freed up for an additional task, that of dismantling the Shia militias. To avoid inflaming public opinion in Iraq, we want the Iraqi government and army to take the lead in this new operation, which is why it is so important to get a functioning, stable, government in place as soon as possible.

There are two main Shia militias, or private armies. The Mahdi Army is under the control of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The other is the Badr Brigade, or Bader Corps, a creation of SCIRI (Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq), whose head is Hadi Al-Amiri.

One difficulty is that these militias have made themselves popular because they have gone after the Sunni terrorists that have plagued Iraq. The longer term strategy to counter this is to provide an alternative though a stronger Iraqi police(IP) force and army.

In addition
, large scale operations will become more infrequent, and there will be even more concentration on reconstruction and civil affairs, and a stronger effort made to strengthen the Iraqi police.

6) Winning

This war is obviously not going to end World War II style, where combat operations suddenly come to and end one day. There will never be a single VI day to match VE or VJ day. Defeating an insurgency is, in the words of Lt. Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia", like "Eating Soup with a Knife"; you can do it, but it's messy and takes a long time.

The question now is one of time. The Bush Administration and Republican congress, looking at their low poll numbers, may conclude that we need to achieve a timetable for getting troops out of Iraq. The danger is that this may occur before a stable Iraqi government is achieved, and the new Iraqi Army and IP forces are strong enough to stand on their own. As Clausewitz would have told us, military affairs and politics and inextricably intertwined.