Saturday, July 23, 2005

Global Terrorism: Refresher Part 2

At the end of World War 1, many nations studied the war to learn its lessons. The nations so interested naturally included Germany and Japan. One key maxim they carried into their Grand Strategies by 1935, was the absolute need for access to oil. Admiral Yamamoto tried to warn the Regime of Tojo, that if America pursued a long war with Japan, that Japan could not possibly win. The reason Hitler sent Rommel, his best general, to the Middle East, was because he understood that without access to the largest reserves of refined petroleum, the Nazis were doomed. While the Liberal cry of “War for Oil” is misplaced in the present conflict, it has a valid place in the rationale for many other conflicts in the past century.

Josef Stalin has been compared to Adolf Hitler in a number of valid ways, including his murderous hatred of Jews and a paranoid foundation of Geopolitical strategy. Stalin also understood the need for access to oil, but perceived that the Soviet Union would not be well received in most Arab countries. To address this problem, the Politburo developed a three-level plan to insure they would not be cut off from the Middle East. First, the Soviet Union offered agreements to countries which would guarantee delivery of oil products to the USSR as its prime client. Second, the USSR moved military forces into any country it could, such as the 1946 incursion into Iran, which led to a crisis between Stalin and Truman. And third, beginning in the 1950s the USSR began to sponsor groups to destabilize countries under the control or influence of Western powers, such as Indonesia, Algeria, and Egypt. When Nasser came to power in Egypt, this was in part due to Soviet provocations, and the success there fed later initiatives. While the Soviets never controlled the PLO, they did provide money and weapons to the group through indirect channels, hoping to destabilize Israel.

The use of state-sponsored terrorism is not limited to the 20th Century, but what happened with the PLO is distinctive. In 1972, the Black September faction held the Israeli delegation to the Olympics in Munich hostage, but later investigation revealed links to suggest that Black September had been initially trained and supplied by the PLO. This demonstrated the strategy of the PLO, to spread out and influence other groups to both common purpose and to disperse law enforcement efforts (as the anti-terrorism fight was then focused) across different groups. Then, in 1974, the PLO seized the offices where the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was holding a conference, including a number of countries which had sponsored PLO actions in the past. The act was both a test of the PLO’s independence, and a bold move to seize financial independence, and it worked. After a ransom estimated between 100 and 150 million dollars was paid, the PLO was a truly independent player, no less violent but now free to choose its own targets. This established the viability of a stand-alone Global Terrorist organization.

(to be continued in further articles)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Global Terrorism: A Refresher

America is at war. For some reason, that fact gets forgotten a lot by people, but it’s true. And it’s not something we really had a choice in. Sure, we could have left Afghanistan alone, but then if he had, Al Qaeda would still have a whole country in which to recruit, train, and deploy terrorists. And sure, we could have left Saddam alone in Iraq, but his behavior over the years does not suggest to me that he would have stopped supporting terrorists, whatever he did with the WMD known to exist in 1995 and 1998. The War on Terrorism had to start somewhere, and it began not only with responding to 9/11, but with a plan to eradicate the threat of Global Terrorism. Let me be very clear where I stand; Iraq had to be invaded just as much as Afghanistan, and the United States has won not one but a series of stunning victories, apparent only when one matches up the elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, Palestine and Saudi Arabia, with what was available in the past generation, or even the past century, and in some places, ever in History before. The cost in casualities taken by Coalition forces, matched against these victories, is very, very low. Any general from any other place and time than 21st Century USA would have laughed in delight at his good fortune. Instead, American leaders are expected to have prevented any losses at all, as if US soldiers should be expected to never die or suffer serious injury. Frankly, it is obscene for many on the Left to criticize the War as they do, when the casualty records from previous wars are clear testimony to the cost of defending freedom. I have no respect, none, for the men who lie that they “support the troops”, but make no attempt to understand or support their mission or goals.

Global Terrorism is different from terrorism in general. Timothy McVeigh, as foul as his act was, was unable to continue his murders beyond the first attempt. Others are able to act for a longer time, but on a small and personal scale, like a gang which terrorizes a neighborhood. And there is also Regional Terrorism, like the South China Sea pirates who raid freighters and oil rigs, or any number of terrorist groups which fight against the established regime of their country. While they are a threat which needs attention, History shows that small-scale terrorist groups are impossible to wipe out altogether. That is, any individual group might be dissolved if a force focuses on them, but they are often small enough to escape serious attention.

Global Terrorism is more difficult to create and maintain, and it also represents a graver threat. The Palestine Liberation Organization is significant in this respect, because the PLO represents the first significant stand-alone Global Terrorist organization which has survived all attempts up to now to wipe it out. Small wonder Yassir Arafat made it such a priority to tie the PLO to the accepted role of the Palestinian Authority. Compare this to two noteworthy Global Terrorist groups of the past; the Hashishin and the Black Hand. The Hashishin were the infamous assassins for hire in the Middle East during the 11th through 13th Centuries, and the Black Hand were international terrorists active during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Both groups were wiped out when a group of nations formed a coalition and sent armed forces to destroy them. Most people are unaware that the creation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation was in large part due to concern about Black Hand bombings against federal judges in the United States. When terrorist groups reach a threshold size and level of violence, the general response is a united determination to oppose them. the present war is the first front in just such a response.

(more to come in successive articles)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Roberts Head Fake


Hugh Hewitt:

Time will tell, of course, but for all the reasons already stated, I think it will tell that, once again, President Bush was misunderestimated all the way to the political bank.”

Michael Barone:

Conservatives have been frustrated that over the past 30 years—in which seven of the nine justices have been appointed by Republican presidents—that mainstream has changed little. The confirmation of John Roberts will move the court a significant distance in their direction.”

William Kristol:

WITH THE SUPREME COURT PICK of John Roberts, George W. Bush rose to the occasion

Confirm Them:

to the extent that any American outside the Washington Beltway contemplated what they wanted in a new Supreme Court justice, it’s a safe bet that they would say: 'the best.'

That’s precisely what President Bush has given us with his nomination of Judge John G. Roberts, Jr., to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.”

OK, you get the idea. John Roberts has a lot of support from some pretty high-powered Conservatives, including the one that really counts: George W. Bush. All right, I hear the yakking; what about Souter, what about O’Connor, what about Kennedy? Yep, I know about them, but if you look deeper, you will see some key differences.

First off, let’s not forget the conditions each President faced. Reagan and Bush I had to get their nominees past a Democrat-controlled Senate, which meant they had to pick candidates that not only did not show a clear Conservative paper trail, they ought to have something liberals found a little bit attractive. Also, think about it; knowing what we know about Roberts already, is there anyone here who thinks the Left would have allowed a John Roberts to be confirmed by the Senate as it existed in 1983, 1986, or 1989? Dubya knew the kind of conditions the Senate is in right now, and Roberts was selected by Bush because of those conditions. More on that in a moment.

Next, look at who supported the nominees. In the case of Souter, for instance, the voucher came from John Sununu, mainly. Now, Sununu’s not a bad sort compared to some I can think of, but he’s a New England Republican, which in some aspects is about as reasonable a term as calling someone a New England cowboy; a bit silly. In the case of Roberts, his support comes from a lot of serious Red State/Red Meat Republicans. What’s more, everything we can confirm about Roberts tracks with the perception that he is not only Conservative, but serious about it. More to the point, his work reveals a serious Originalist, which is really what the SCOTUS needs.

Now, back to the context. Personally, I believe the 2000 Presidential Election opened up some eyes on the High Court, and while the Justices keep a lot of things to themselves, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out many years from now that the President got wind of a few things, like a rough idea of who might retire. In an earlier post, I speculated about who might retire and why, but I was hardly the first or the boldest predictor of possible openings. It’s not hard, once one realizes just how long the present Justices have been sitting on the SCOTUS, to realize that a general change of cast is not far off, and since the Democrats are increasingly determined to keep the Senate and the White House in GOP custody, Justices might well be scheduling departures sooner rather than later.

With that in mind, one might wonder why Rehnquist did not resign this summer? Why indeed? The man is entitled to his own counsel, to be sure, and it’s certainly possible that vanity plays its part in chasing the record, but the plain fact is, after this summer there will be three more where President Bush is still in office, and with the Senate looking to stay as Red or Redder than it is now (provided Senator Santorum’s recent verbal gaffes don’t become the common lingua franca by Republicans), it’s not unrealistic to examine the conditions a SCOTUS nominee would face in each of those years. Next summer, of course, is right before the Midterm elections, and if Ginsburg is going to jump, that would be the best time, where she can hope for political pressure to put in a moderate as well. I have already said that I suspect Rehnquist plans to go next summer, and will try to talk Ruth Bader into accompanying him on that last parade. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see as many as three (three!) additional Justices step down in the summer of 2008, although I actually expect just 2 more to go then. But 5 to 6 SCOTUS Justices to be appointed by Dubya in the space of 4 summers would absolutely set off the Screaming Slander Monkey contingent, and clearly the best campaign prepares in advance for that. At that time, it won’t matter who Bush nominates, the Left will be dead set against them, and will throw up a complete and total ‘scorched-earth’ policy of denial and attacks. Strange as it may sound, now is really the only chance for a judge like Roberts to get confirmed, as in the high-pressure environment of addressing simultaneous multiple SCOTUS picks, the Right and Left will each demand a pedigree of absolute confidence. The Left will end up getting nuked, no matter what happens, but will definitely play up some sort of scandal lie (a la Anita Hill) to do what damage they can. The best riposte is to throw them off guard. And this is why Roberts was such a smart choice. If Bush had sent up a ‘moderate’, he’s smart enough to know he’d be throwing away an Ace card. If he had sent up a Luttig or Owens, he would have precipitated just what the Donks expected. Instead, he had the chance to make sure of his choice, and when the time was right, toss in a couple head fakes (word is, Judge Jones’ family was together in Washington when the White House called the conference to announce Bush would name his choice - heh) and give ‘em the curveball. Bush took longer than people think to select Roberts, and I suspect he already has the next few choices ready, with regular updates.

So, the Democrats can’t decide whether or not they want to use their one-bullet filibuster gun now or later. And there’s no reason to think, now I consider it, that so long as he knows what he is getting, that President Bush has any reason or motivation to give the Democrats any chance at all to prepare for the next time. It will happen when it happens, and like a certain speech said: “… at a time of our choosing”.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Amanda Twellman-Dieppa Dead from Hodgkin’s Disease

Readers may recall the plight of Amanda Twellman-Dieppa, who fought to gain access to clinical trials for the experimental drug ‘MDX-60’, which was in phase II clinical trials, and was not planning to take additional patients.

The Medarex company graciously added Amanda to their trials, and hope was high for good results. The treatments began on May 25th.

I am saddened to say that, although the drug did not produce any malignant effects, Amanda contracted pneumonia around the first of July, and passed away the evening of July 19. More information on Amanda's final days may be found here.

Jeffrey King wrote what amounts to a brief and poignant obituary, finishing with an appropriate request:

Please pray for her family, her friends, and her husband Aaron

May the Lord indeed provide solace and comfort for the family, and for all such patients who fight for the health and life we so often take for granted.

(thanks to ThreeBadFingers for the information)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Spy Guys

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If you are reading this in hopes of finding out the latest dirt on the Valerie Wilson/Plame/Joe Wilson/Joe Camel/Karl Rove/Darth Vader angle, you will be disappointed. Sort of, anyway. One thing which has been driving me nuts since this whole thing got running, was the immediate acceptance of the claim that Valerie Plame is, and I quote, an “undercover CIA operative”. Read this carefully, folks – there’s no such thing as an “undercover CIA operative”. Those words were used to make her sound exciting, and are no more grounded in fact than Saddam Hussein’s continuing claims that he is somehow still the rightful President of Iraq. The problem here, is that so many people judge reality by the movies, TV shows, and MainPain Media, that they have lost all real sense of what they’re talking about. So, even if it’s for no one but myself, I’m sorting out who’s who in the world of American spies.

There are fifteen major acknowledged Intelligence agencies and/or organizations in the United States Intelligence Community. They do different things and so hire and train their people in different ways, so for here and now I’m just going to address the Central Intelligence Agency, leaving you with just the quiet reminder that the NSA, DIA, and so on all have different programs and rosters.

So, let’s say you’re in the market for joining an Intelligence Agency, and you’ve settled on the CIA. There are somewhere between 12,000 and 19,000 employees of the Company (as it is known), depending on who you ask. The CIA, like all large companies, uses a standard process for selecting its new hires, and because it is a government office, also forces its applicants to endure the unique and excruciating torture of American Federal Bureaucracy (which may explain why the Communists never got very much success trying to break our guys through duress). And that’s both after and after the recruiters decide whom they want. That’s a point I want to explore further.

Like many corporations, the guy who brings you in from the outside may often have no real decision in where you land, exactly. The CIA likes to hire for three basic classes of employee, plus contractors (whom I will discuss in a moment): Support, Analysis, and Field Officers. What that means in English, is that far and away the largest number of people hired as employees for the CIA will work either at a desk or in a warehouse. That’s because the CIA works to gather, analyze, and report information, especially to and for the President. Officers in the field collect the information, analysts weigh it and report their findings to higher-ups, who package reports for the White House and other agencies. The bulk of the Company, in terms of staffing, resources, and preparation, gets the Field Officers ready with training, briefings, supplies, and support in the field.

Contractors are used by the Company for a number of purposes, including tasks the CIA does not want to be linked to, temporary needs, and for work by people who do not need to have connection to the permanent employees. At its worst, this practice led to contracts with the Mob to try to kill Castro and similar crimes, but also has allowed the Company to operate with a more efficient method. When the Company references Contractors, one of the words that gets used in their talk is ‘operative’. That’s because Contractors can be used in a single operation, but are not field officers. Whether or not Valerie Plame/Wilson was a contractor does not matter for here, because contractors do not have covert protection, nor are they granted special status by the government or by law.

For Valerie Plame/Wilson to have held the sort of protection noted in the press, she would have to have been a field officer, a very specific designation and a distinct minority in the Company. There are, again depending on who you ask, between 3,500 and 6,000 active field officers in the CIA. One reason for the range, is because field officers do not stay active all that long, and they transfer to other divisions of the CIA when they are no longer field officers; a field career of 5 years is long, and so many field officers will become analysts later in their career. From what I see, this appears to track with Ms. Plame/Wilson, especially given her clout to recommend her hubby be sent to Africa. Relatively young field agents have little such influence, and analysts who have never worked anything but a desk also lack that pull. A field officer-turned-analyst, however, would be in a position to call in markers, which is just what Wilson’s Africa trip looks like. And by 2003, remember, Plame/Wilson had already been established as a regular desk-sitter at CIA HQ, making her someone in the field, say, during the Clinton years but not anytime recently. Given the 5-year limit on cover protection, it looks less and less like the leaker broke any laws, no matter who it was.

So, why the frou-for-all? Well, Wilson and Plame/Wilson were both big-time Gore backers, and if anything is clear after the 2000 Presidential Election, it’s that the bigger one was on the Left, the more unhinged one became. I can easily see the Wilson/Plames looking for a way to get even with Dubya, explaining not only Joe Wilson’s lie-fest in 2003 and subsequent book deal, but Valerie Wilson/Plame’s acquiescence to pretending she was a spook in distress, uncovered by that mean old Karl Rove. Setting up enemies was a long-practiced tradition, and even if Valerie was never more than an analyst with connections to important friends, she wanted to play that game very badly. Also, since the CIA earned its reputation long ago as an office willing and eager to play politics to its gain, the Liberal character if the Wilson/Plames was a good fit for the trick intended for Rove, but which now looks likely to hurt no one except Judith Miller.

And diminish, of course, the reputation and security of the real field officers, doing their job while the Wilson/Plames play with cloaks and daggers.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Around the MSM Neighborhood


Looking over some of the columns posted on Real Clear Politics this weekend:

* John Podhoretz at the New York Post writes that “these aren't happy political days for George W. Bush”, on what appears to be no better evidence than poll numbers. Permit me to sneer at that; Dubya has always counted his merits on firmer footing, things like addressing real problems and making real changes. What the Media thinks of him has never ranked highly on his scale of concern.

* Amy Sullivan at the Washington Monthly, writes a somewhat lengthy article doubting Hillary’s chances of winning the White House in 2008. At the end of her piece, Sullivan admits, “It's too early for anyone to say with certainty that Hillary Clinton can't win the White House”. She might do well to consider that her analysis of the race, while denying it should be only about Hillary, focused on no other potential Democrat.

* John Deutch (former CIA head) writes in the New York Times, that America’s best strategy in the world is to run away. I thank God every day that such men as Deutch no longer have access to the President’s ear, or make decisions affecting the country’s direction.

* John Tierney in the New York Times writes an amusing and perceptive piece about the brou-haha conjured up by Joe Wilson. The money line reads:

For now, though, it looks as if this scandal is about a spy who was not endangered, a whistle-blower who did not blow the whistle and was not smeared, and a White House official who has not been fired for a felony that he did not commit. And so far the only victim is a reporter who did not write a story about it.
He also quotes Monty Python, but you should read the article to get it right in context.

* Returning to the more common, if less realistic, fare of the MSM, we see a piece by Carol Swain in the Washington Post, who sees in the light of the Senate’s meaningless apology the need for an even bigger apology, one which “would all reap enormous national and international rewards from such a goodwill gesture”. Let that be a warning to all writers to steer clear of prescription drugs before engaging in an editorial.

* Leon de Winter for the New York Times, writes a perceptive piece about the high cost of mindless tolerance, observing that the Netherlands tolerated two forces which have all but destroyed it from within: “the cultural and sexual revolution of the 1960's and 70's and the influx of Muslim workers during those years of prosperity.” De Winter observes that the Netherlands could not prevent their incipient disaster, because there “It was simply not acceptable to discuss problems relating to religion and culture.” The East and West Coast elites would do well to note that warning.

* Howard Fineman at Newsweek writes a predictable screed against his nemesis, indeed the nemesis of all political hacks and liars on the Left: Karl Rove. As usual Fineman’s pretensions die a quick death, daylight being intolerant of nonsense and paranoia.

* John Leo, writing for U.S. News and World Report, observes that “[t]he soft and squishy side of the Hollywood mind” is taking over, ruining films and ignoring History.

* And rounding out the review with some good analysis and common sense, Michael Barone at real Clear Politics writes that Joe Wilson is today’s Titus Oates. As is often the case, those who know history will catch the reference, and those who have dived off the deep end beyond recovery have no interest in history or its consequences.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Culture Declares Itself

I’m reading through two books right now, and while I am not far enough to give a complete review yet about them, though they are both deserving of your attention and consideration. Those two books are “100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken is #37)” by Bernard Goldberg, and “Our Culture, What’s Left of It” by Thoedore Dalrymple. Both Goldberg and Dalrymple note both general and specific incidents and conditions, and make convincing arguments to support their diagnosis of American Culture.

I want to hold off on a longer review of both books because I am still making my way through each of them. But I am far enough into each to recomend them both, to any student curious to understand how how America’s most vicious domestic vandals can make the claims they do, yet choose to live here as citizens. Dalyrmple explains it well in an essay in his book, which essay is titled “What We Have To Lose”:

“[T]hey were more like ancient barbarians who, having overrun and sacked a civilized city, lived in the ruins, because they were still far better than anything they could build themselves.”

Culture declares itself, indelibly and with distinction.