Friday, January 20, 2006

The Shadow Of Death: The Threat From Iran In Context

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I have been thinking about how to explain the current crisis in Iran for more than a week now. As usual, when mundane minds hesitate, we are passed by our superiors, and so I see that Victor Davis Hanson has put up his own well-done article. Yet for all the salient points he makes in his column, titled “The not-so-mad mind of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad”, I find I must disagree with the Stanford historian on certain important points. Certainly I agree that Ahmadinejad is a very dangerous man, and the threat from Iran must be taken as a grave danger. However, I do not agree that Ahmadinejad is not mad; he certainly is separated from a functional perception of Reality. Where Dr. Hanson contends that Ahmadinejad is not mad but is dangerous, I submit that the President of Iran is quite mad by any reasonable standard, but he is not stupid or foolish. That is to say, Ahmadinejad has been fully briefed on the various nations’ capabilities, he is experienced in the region’s politics, and he understands the difference between what his rhetoric promises and his regime can deliver. The difference between these perspectives is critical to the decision of the best response America can make.

One thing which must be understood is the reason for Ahmadinejad’s threats and prophecies. There are two errors which must be avoided by the West. One mistake would be to class Ahmadinejad’s noise as mere bluster, typical of the “Death To America” screeds which followed the 1979 Revolution. Iran had actually toned down its speeches and denouncements after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, especially after the fall of Baghdad, but has renewed hostility in recent months, especially with regard to its nuclear program. Also, Ahmadinejad’s election as President signals the regime’s determination to pursue a course not only opposed to the United States, but quite likely one to lead to conflict in force. Too many people forget that Iran was willing to attack U.S. Navy vessels when they escorted Kuwaiti tankers during the late 1980s, and too many people fail to understand the financing and support systems Iran created to enable and deploy terrorist organizations. Americans may not be impressed with Iran’s relative success at low-intensity warfare, but Iran believes it can fight the United States and win, provided it dictates the terrain, context, and scale. A pistol aimed at the head of a helpless hostage is more than a fond memory for Ahmadinejad; it neatly describes the Foreign Policy of the Revolutionary Jihadists in Teheran.

The second error however, would be to allow Ahmadinejad victory by granting him too much credence in his fantasies. Iran has made some serious mistakes in its policies since the Revolution, not least because Sharia does not fare well in real-world conditions. One significant reason for the radical shift in Iran’s public pronouncements is the growing momentum for Democracy in the Middle East. Free elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, women actually voting, public schools teaching Science and History apart from the supervision of Mullahs, the growth of private businesses, public demonstrations against oppression in Iran, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, even Saudi Arabia, are all seen as signs of a tide moving against the will of Jihad. The anger from Ahmadinejad and his government is as much from desperation as from confidence; he sees the work of a generation slipping away, the dream of Jihadist Triumph paid by the blood of infidels lost to the vision of Arab Democracy, compulsory prayer five times a day defeated by the ideal of people choosing how to believe and how to practice their personal belief. The Reformation of Islam, so long overdue, is seen by Ahmadinejad and his regime as a fatal threat to the Prophet. The best strategy against Ahmadinejad therefore, includes keeping the pressure of such a Reformation fresh and strong before him, attacking him where he is weakest and where the best hope for the Muslim world may be found.

Before going further, it would also be worthwhile to examine the scale and feasibility of the Iranian threat. The problems for Iran are rather significant, if their stated desire to destroy Israel and the United States are to be accomplished. For one thing, it appears reasonable at this time to say that Iran does not yet have a nuclear bomb. This is a very big point in the matter, in part because making a nuke is not so simple as some would have you believe, nor is having a nuclear bomb quite the advancement some thought. Or to put it another way, one should ask just why Ahmadinejad thinks having a nuclear weapon will make a difference. And to do that, we need to consider the limited perspective of History as Ahmadinejad sees it.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sees his opportunity through the malaise of the West shown during the 1970s and 1990s. That much is clear. The rise of OPEC and the growth of small terrorist bands into global organizations are much-cherished glories in the mind of the radical Muslim, and give hope for greater victories to come, in the mold of Iran, Somalia, and naturally Vietnam. In a way, it is fascinating to see how much of the old Soviet dialectic finds its way into the thinking of the Jihadist – ‘wait long enough, and our enemy will grow weak’ seems to be the motto of their strategy. To move this process along, the Jihadist chooses only to strike soft targets, to try to weaken Western resolve, and to deny all evidence of the evil of Jihadist actions and intentions. And in the face of Television and the Press, the Jihadists come to believe they are winning the war. It’s only a matter of time, they assure each other.

But Ahmadinejad has problems in his plan, demonstrated by the periodic revival of Western resolve, and the undeniable superiority of American might. He shows no sign of acknowledging what a Reagan, a Thatcher, or a Dubya could mean to upsetting his plans. He could and should consider how previous high-profile troublemakers, like Qaddafi, Hussein, or even bin Laden fared once the U.S. decided to face them down. For all his annoying taped messages, after all, exactly what has Osama bin Hiding accomplished since 9/11? A reasonable person might warn Ahmadinedjad that calling out the West can sometimes be like waving a steak at a Rottweiler.

But even more to the point, it appears that Ahmadinejad wants to be yet another leader in the ‘Mahdi’ mold. He has not, however, considered the fate of all the prior would-be Mahdis. Instead, Ahmadinejad continues to ignore the inconvenient, and assume the best-case scenario will play out. That’s probably because Ahmadinejad’s plans have three stages, and he doesn’t believe he needs much luck to make them work.

Step one for Ahmadinejad is simple but difficult – get a nuclear bomb. The reason he wants one, is not because he plans to nuke Israel. Oh yes, he would love to do it, but it would take a stockpile to do the job, along with missiles that could reach the targets, and never mind the question of accuracy. Iran does not have missiles with the range or accuracy they would need, and as for bombers, the situation is even weaker. Iran does not have an air force worthy of the name; any attempt to attack Israel by bomber will only lead to the loss of every Iranian bomber. This means that in addition to developing the weapon, Iran must develop a delivery system, as well as a stockpile sufficient to the campaign along with the security needed to protect each part of the system. Knowing this, Ahmadinejad must be planning something other than an immediate immolation of Tel Aviv.

The obvious thought pops up, that Ahmadinejad could simply smuggle a nuke into Israel and detonate it via a suicide bomber. The problem there, is that such an attack could not reasonably coordinated in such a way as to destroy more than 3 or 4 locations, and probably nothing in a way which could disrupt the IDF’s own nuclear threat. And Ahmadinejad is not stupid enough to forget the Samson Option – the well-known threat by Israel that a nuclear attack on Israel would result in the use of Israeli nuclear missiles on every Arab capital or holy city. No matter how much the Jihadists would like to destroy Israel, they would not be willing to destroy themselves, especially their holy cities of Mecca and Medina, to do so. For all their bluster, the leaders of the Jihad are seldom willing to die for their cause. Kill yes, torture certainly, but they themselves are unlikely to accept their own death as the cost of victory.

Another point most people forget, is that Iran has Chemical and Biological WMD. It would be easy for Iran to attack Israel with the WMD already on hand, to say nothing of not bothering neighboring countries with the dangers of fallout from a nuclear volley. That has not happened either, possibly for reason of that same retaliatory threat from Israel, but also because attempting to out-and-out destroy a country by killing everyone in it is not only very difficult from a pragmatic perspective, but it also is all but impossible to justify. Such an attempt, Ahmadinejad knows, could easily create a global backlash against the Arab world and in support of Israel.

Consequently, Ahmadinejad has a longer plan, if also a slower one. By declaring that the Iranian Nuclear reactors are peaceful, Ahmadinajad hopes to generate sympathy for Iran among other nations excluded from the “Nuclear Club”, and so build a coalition of his own to stand against the greater powers. Trade agreements with China not only provide revenue for Iran and encourage China to support Iran in the United Nations, but also help Iran grow closer in its plans to foment insurrection along the China border later on. Most people are unaware of the growing Jihadist threat along China’s Southwest flank, which also could act against India if needed. The Jihadist threat against Russia can be demonstrated by a look at the difficulty posed by Chechnya, which now suffers from a number of active Al Qaeda cells. Add to that the unrest in France and Germany, and it is not difficult to see why Ahmadinejad believes that Iran’s long term strategy will work, keeping Europe and Asia out of the matter when Iran chooses to attack Israel. For now, it seems a simple measure for Iran to demand Europe and Asia not block its access to “peaceful” nuclear power, even though this means a bomb in a matter of two or three years. Also during this time, terrorist action may be expected to try to destabilize Saudi Arabia, either to crate an additional Jihadist regime or to force financial backing for an expanded Jihad.

Once Iran has the bomb, Ahmadinejad will test it, as a warning sign to the Unted States, and a ballistic missile capable of reaching the Gulf or the Mediterranean will be the next order or business. At some point, the missile will be test-fired into waters where U.S. aircraft carriers often travel, and the U.S. will be warned that Iran will not allow trespass. This does not mean that Ahmadinejad will seek direct confrontation with a carrier group, but he will hope to intimidate the United States, especially if this occurs after Bush leaves office. In similar fashion, Iran will make a number of statements forcing regional governments to choose a side, with the implication that anyone opposing Iran will stand alone and at significant danger. The deployment of terrorist cells may be expected to be timed to these announcements. Also, a regional alliance consisting of Iran, Syria, and at least one more Middle East power may be announced at this time. A strong effort will likely be made to create a military alliance on the order of OPEC. Provocations against Israel will also occur.

Essentially, the first two steps require finding a way to force the United States and Israel to back off pressure on Iran, while the Jihad builds regional support. The third step begins when Iran believes it has the means to invade a major regional power, such as Turkey or Egypt. When this happens, the Iran-led alliance will find a pretext to invade Israel, ostensibly on behalf of the Palestinians but actually to fulfill Ahmadinejad’s promise to wipe Israel off the map. The eventual war against the United States will depend on the acquisition of WMD sufficient to destroy a number of critical junctures, though in actual fact victory conditions for the Iranians would simply be to force de facto recognition of an Arab superstate in the Middle East, the long-awaited Caliphate.

Intimidating as this sounds, it has a rather large number of weak points and assumptions, and failure at any of several critical points would collapse the whole plan. The obvious problems for Ahmadinejad begin with the fact that Iran is not behind him on this plan. The average Iranian couldn’t care less whether Israel is destroyed or not, and he has little interest in fighting in a war that doesn’t have to happen. The young are demanding political reform, the women are demanding the vote, and the veterans from the old Iran-Iraq war are demanding a better sense of how to avoid killing off an entire generation of men. And that doesn’t include the people who could be interested in a counter-revolution against the Mullahs. One of the more ironic dangers for Iran in trying to develop a nuclear bomb, is the possibility that rebels could seize the weapon and use it against the regime.

And then there is Iraq. A rebuilt Iraq with a sense of its new independence is not likely to smile on a Jihadist neighbor, especially one with a violent history and threatening words. The war between Khomeini and Hussein was a very bad thing for both countries, but a new war between the two could be much bloodier. During the first Gulf War, there was fear that a weakened Iraq might be invaded by Iran. The possibility that Iraq, with or even without U.S. backing, might invade Iran must also be considered. There are real reasons why this would make sense to Iraq, and Iran has to plan how to prevent this possibility.

Also in play is Afghanistan. President Bush understood the Afghans in a way the British and Russians never did, and ironically the Iranians also have failed to grasp. In some ways the Afghans are very much like the Turks, absolutely relentless as an enemy, but absolutely trustworthy as a friend. The United States could not convince Afghanistan to attack Iran, but at the same time Afghanistan is highly unlikely to support an Iran-led alliance. This is a real problem for Iran’s long-term plans in the region, especially if Afghanistan sends an ultimatum of its own to Teheran, which is not as unlikely as some people think. The Afghans play Chess the old-school way: Shah Mat.

All this may help to explain why the United States is taking the tack it has. In the first place, Iran has a longer road than it pretends. Also, the U.S. sees no advantage in doing what Iran expects it to do, especially since the U.S. has options that Iran cannot prevent. Third, the U.S. has long-term goals of its own in play, and if these succeed, Iran will be in a bad way to prevent the dissolution of the Mullahs’ control. It’s a very dangerous business, but for more than one side.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Who IS the 'Jack Bauer' of Blogging?

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As I drove home from work yesterday, I listened to Hugh Hewitt's radio show, and Hugh turns out to be a fan of "24". So much so, that he readily accepted the nomination, which he says was tagged by blogger Frater's Libertas, as the "Jack Bauer of the Blogosphere". Chad the Elder wrote in response that he actually dubbed Hugh as "the Jack Abramoff of talk radio and the blogosphere".


I don't know that I would be linking respectable and intelligent people with Abramoff right about now, but I have to agree with Chad that Hugh is not the Bauer model. I like Hewitt, and he's spot-on with some of his insights, but sorry Hugh, you're no Jack Bauer. If nothing else, the fact that you are a lawyer disqualifies you. Could anyone imagine Jack Bauer with a law degree? Please.

But it raises a good question. Just who, in the Blogosphere, is our Jack Bauer? Without saying at the start who I think fills the bill, here's how I see the role:

1. He's male. Sorry ladies, but this gun-toting, do-what-a-patriot's-gotta-do guy is focused testosterone. This ain't Siegfried and Roy, this ain't Dr. Phil, and any woman pulling the kind of stuff we see Bauer doing in "24" would look more like "Xena" than a counter-terrorism agent.

2. He's decisive. No one who can be connected to a focus group or committee need apply.

3. He's not PC. Bauer does what is required, and is not subtle about it.

4. Despite being violent a lot, Bauer is not crazy or bloodthirsty. He does what is necessary, but holds his fire, and is willing to let even terrorists live if they surrender. That rules out DU or Daily Kos, even if they could accept being on the same side as Bauer.

5. Bauer is in such deep cover, most people think he's dead. Talk about controlling your ego. That rules out Rush, most talk show hosts and columnists, and anyone who has voluntarily appeared on Leno or Letterman.

6. Bauer knows guns. And uses them often. This rules out anyone from the State Department or the United Nations, or their advocates.

7. Bauer is indestructible. In a previous season, Bauer freaking died, someone got his heart started again and by the end of the episode Bauer was kicking bad guys in the groin as hard as ever.

8. Bauer always knows what's about to happen. As a result, he has a few seconds to plan his actions, which only appear to be impossible.

9. Bauer trusts the right people. He instinctively knows the traitors and low-lifes, but depends on the ones he knows are stand-up.

10. Bauer gets results. Compromise is useless.

So, with that in mind, who is the Blogosphere's "Jack Bauer"?

Please include reasons with your nomination(s).

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The American Dream

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I read Kay Hymowitz’ column while I drank my morning coffee and ignored my e-mail. The article, titled “Marriage and Caste”, argued for the need for a woman to have a marriage, but also touched on the concern about “whether the American Dream is within the reach of all.” That struck a chord, in no small part because Ms. Hymowitz never defined the Dream for her audience, and that seems to me a significant point of contention.

Everyone dreams about something, but even for a particular individual, those dreams may change over time. For instance, I have at various times dreamed of wealth, fame, romance, or simply to avoid disaster at work, with the law, or with my family. So to mention “the” dream, is to imply that there is one ubiquitous desire for everyone, and to dub it the “American Dream” is to suggest a unique quality to the dream apart from the human condition. So that is my starting point, to re-examine the nature and elements of the American Dream.

In the Declaration of Independence, the Congress concurred that Man holds rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. While various legislatures and demagogues have wrought havoc on those basic presumptions over the years, the basic rights are still pretty simple, especially the fact that we enjoy the right to chase Happiness; there is no guarantee we shall have it.

And yet there is a kind of joy to such a pursuit. Anyone who has played sports knows the thrill of contest, and anyone who has completed a difficult project knows the satisfaction of accomplishment. And it is critical to understand that the dream can be the same, even when it is different for each person.

In my life I have met an Indian woman who whose dream was to choose her husband. I met a Muslim whose personal proof of the mercy of God was having his wife and daughter in his life. I met a Baptist who wanted to run in the Olympics. I know a Sikh who wants to get his novel published. I am friends with a guy who wants his son to play for the Astros. And I know a guy running for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Some of these people have already fulfilled their dream, others are working on it. Some will never succeed at their dream, but the point is they are able to try. As for myself, I am looking for a publisher for two novels, as well as going after my MBA. Maybe it will happen, maybe not, but the truth about the American Dream, is that I can try. Shoot, I have already become internationally known as a blogger, mistaken for an authority on a couple subjects, and I have as fine a wife and family as I could ever have asked God to grant me.

OK, so some of the more cynical will stop and say, 'yeah, duck the issue DJ. The fact is, some people got money and always will, others never will.' To them I ask, is money all you know? Because money will not make a happy marriage, give you purpose, or help you sleep at night, knowing you made a difference in someone’s life.

But even if money is the all-important thing to you, nowhere is the field more level, the roster more open to everyone than in America. You can open a business of virtually any kind, virtually anywhere, and we actually have a decent set of laws which work well to a surprising degree, to protect intellectual rights, property, consumers and workers. Yes, there will always be some who are richer than their efforts deserved, but in America more people make their fortune than anywhere else. Yes, it means accepting risks and an inconstant climate, but no one said you get to coast to success. It’s the American Dream, not the Yankee Comfy Nap.

Pick a dream. Chase it. See what happens.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Using Intelligence – the N.E.S.T.

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Paul Holman* was on his way to work in Baltimore one early morning in January 2005, driving to a power plant run by Baltimore Gas & Electric, when his pager went off. The pager was a special one, and it flashed a number with a code warning Holman he needed to find a Secure Telephone Unit (STU) before making the call. When Holman called in, he was directed to immediately proceed to Boston to meet with four other members of his team. Four Chinese nationals and two Iraqis were alleged to have smuggled an unknown amount of radioactive material into the city of Boston, and it was the job of Holman’s team to find the material, and determine whether a nuclear bomb had been made. The Boston Police, FBI, bomb-sniffing dogs, and even the Boston office of the DHS were put at the team’s discretion.

Paul is a member of a NEST, or Nuclear Emergency Search Team. NESTs are controlled and directed by the Department of Energy, and exist solely to find and defuse nuclear threats. As part of its job, a NEST has to have real-time intelligence information, and immediate access to the resources needed to act on tips and clues. A NEST can be deployed by the “DP-20 Duty Officer” from the DOE field office in Nevada, by the Office of Threat Assessment, by direct order from the Secretary of Energy, or by order from the National Command Authority (NCA) – the President of the United States or his designated case officer. In such an event, a team will be mobilized to act in the area of crisis. This field team is formally known as an Operational Emergency Management Team (OEMT), but to law enforcement they usually also refer to themselves as NEST to avoid confusion. There will be a Team Leader (TL/DOE), who will be in charge and report actions and events to the NEST Director and the Energy Secretary, and where appropriate, the NCA.

The number and specific qualifications of NEST members is classified information, but NEST members are distinctive for expertise in nuclear materials and explosives. So, in addition to members with military and law enforcement experience, especially in bomb disposal, NESTs also include white-collar professionals like Paul, whose specific knowledge applies not only to day-to-day operation of such mundane responsibilities as electricity transmission grids, but also the radiation characteristics of enriched material. So, it is possible that if you work in the utilities field, or in scientific research, you may personally know someone whose responsibilities include protecting the country from a nuclear terrorist threat. While the government will neither confirm nor deny the contention, it is believed that similar teams exist to deal with Chemical and Biological threats, managed by DHS under the heading "Domestic Emergency Search Team", or DEST . At least twenty discrete NEST groups are believed to have been established in the continental United States, usually located in or near major cities, especially where nuclear power plants are in operation.

In the actual event in January 2005, no bomb turned out to exist after a four-day search, nor was any radioactive material found in the Boston area. Even so, the deployment was valuable experience for the NEST, who were debriefed by DOE and the FBI before returning to their regular duties. These debriefings are critically important, as in each case there are things which go right, and things which go wrong. In one previous event, a NEST discovered a stored sample of radioactive waste which had no connection to the threat, but for a time generated significant concern. On another occasion, a suspect claimed to be able to detonate a “dirty” radioactive bomb by remote control, complicating the search operation. Learning from such difficulties improves the teams’ ability to address the next incident.

In terms of Intelligence, NESTs are examples of “Right Now” Intelligence – data which not only has to be accurate, but specific and fast. They didn’t say, but I’d be willing to bet that in a NEST deployment, no one bothers with warrants.

* Not his real name

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Red Pen – Correcting More Liberal Inaccuracies

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Niall Ferguson has an interesting article written up in the Telegraph. Interesting, but largely wrong. The opinion piece, titled “The origins of the Great War of 2007 - and how it could have been prevented” appears on the surface to be in support of the Bush Doctrine of pre-empting catastrophic threat. But the author makes so many mistakes, in historical fact as well as in his conclusions, that the piece must be redressed on something better than Ferguson’s rhetorical swagger.

Historians, as a rule, like to feel important. This is a common characteristic which shows up in their narration of events, as though they understood things better than the average fellow, a condition which is seldom true of academics. Also, it is my experience that a proper student of History should always consult more than one point of view, to avoid the errors which bias, however unintended, always displays on a version which accepts only one perspective. To that end, I will address the gist of Ferguson’s contentions, with emphasis on his errors and the proper correction to them, as I see it.

The first error by Ferguson is this statement: “The first underlying cause of the war was the increase in the region's relative importance as a source of petroleum. On the one hand, the rest of the world's oil reserves were being rapidly exhausted. On the other, the breakneck growth of the Asian economies had caused a huge surge in global demand for energy. It is hard to believe today, but for most of the 1990s the price of oil had averaged less than $20 a barrel.”

To begin with, anyone who knows the history of the late 1960s through the 1970s understands that the heyday of oil’s strategic value was before the Reagan era. Ferguson mistakes the prevalent use of oil by emerging industrial nations, and the continued consumer reliance on oil, as indicators of potential global crisis. However, the far more serious OPEC embargoes, especially during the Carter Administration, impacted the world economy in ways which are not possible today, not only because of improvement in alternative sources for petroleum, but also because governments and industries were forced to accept the need for far greater efficiency and diversified processes. Ferguson’s note about oil prices during the 1990s ironically misses two salient points – first, low oil prices have been the exception rather than the rule for the past half-century, and second, prices were so low in the 1990s because the improvements in diverse sources, efficiency, and alternative processes created a relatively low demand for OPEC oil in specific. OPEC addressed this by expanding its membership, paying close attention to market conditions, and by understanding that the most efficient alternatives would be shelved by high availability and low prices. In other words, sound business practices were more effective and beneficial for OPEC than political brinksmanship. It is not, to be blunt, in OPEC’s interest to allow any one nation or player disrupt the flow of oil, because to do so would damage OPEC to a far greater extent than it might gain. Accordingly, Iran will lose friends in OPEC if it tries to use Oil as a political weapon, to such a point that it is possible for OPEC to do an end-run to keep supplies moving. This removes the 'crisis'value of Oil in terms of sparking a global conflagration. Ferguson is reliving old history and has failed to observe policy and industry changes which have set a different course under such a scenario.

Ferguson’s next error was demographics, comparing Muslim fertility to European fertility. Ferguson notes that the population explosion in Iran led to “a quite extraordinary surplus of young men. More than two fifths of the population of Iran in 1995 had been aged 14 or younger. This was the generation that was ready to fight in 2007.

Again, this is a serious mistake by Ferguson. He even manages to mention the devastating casualties suffered in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, without once considering the social effects of such a war on the support for a war of conquest. Ferguson also fails to note the rise of youth protests against Iran’s repressive government and policies. Ferguson does not seem to have considered that arming large groups of Iranian men and training them to fight, could result in a massive revolt against the Mullahs. In an age where rebels can communicate through cell phones, faxes, websites, e-mail, and many other hard-to-block, hard-to-track technologies, dismissing the potential of insurrection is foolish. Especially against a regime which advocates extreme policies for the perceived benefit only to themselves.

Ferguson makes a telling error in his next statement, claiming “people in the West struggled to grasp the implications of this shift. Subliminally, they still thought of the Middle East as a region they could lord it over, as they had in the mid-20th century.

More than anywhere else in the article, Ferguson here identifies himself as a Liberal, and demonstrates a filtered perspective of the region. This statement not only locks Ferguson into the obsolete political thinking of the Stalin v. Eisenhower era, but also defines him firmly as a 'September 10th' historian. Ferguson is blissfully unaware that the 2002-present military actions were not meant to impose a Western will on the Arab world, but to remove a global threat – international terrorists created, trained, supported and sponsored by Arab factions and governments. The Coalition did not invade Afghanistan in hopes of creating a regime submissive to their policies, but to take out Al Qaeda. The Coalition did not invade Iraq in order to turn the place into a docile colony, but to remove a despot who was known to have used WMD on another country, and on minorities in his own nation. For Ferguson to have missed this essential point is appalling, and demonstrates a basic flaw in his logic.

Ferguson then lays out his third “precondition for war: cultural. Since 1979, not just Iran but the greater part of the Muslim world had been swept by a wave of religious fervour, the very opposite of the process of secularisation that was emptying Europe's churches.

Although few countries followed Iran down the road to full-blown theocracy, there was a transformation in politics everywhere. From Morocco to Pakistan, the feudal dynasties or military strongmen who had dominated Islamic politics since the 1950s came under intense pressure from religious radicals

This is another stupendous blunder, to be frank. In the first place, Ferguson glosses over the fact that most Arabs and Muslims wanted no part of the radical Jihadism pushed by the likes of Khomeini. Even an overview of the Arab Culture reveals sharp divisions between the way Turks, Iranians, Iraqis, Egyptians, and other Middle Eastern nationalities see their region and responsibilities. Ferguson even fails to observe the waves of repression versus reform demands in Iran, as the country struggles to decide whether the majority of people will be able to take back their nation. Ferguson forgets that Khomeini’s power came not from genuine support by the Iranian people, but through manipulation of events to establish his minority sect in the seat of power, one dictator simply replacing another. There are quite literally millions of Iranians who would like see a government which represents the Iranian heart and mind as it is, not in the image cast by a Shah or an Ayatollah, especially given recent history.

As to Europe, let us never forget Fabrizio Quattrocchi, who was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in 2004, yet shouted defiantly on camera “This is how an Italian dies!” Such is hardly the act of a man void of ideals or courage.

When terrorist bastards blew up buses and trains in London, the result only hardened resolve and diligence, bringing support even from countries like China. It can therefore hardly be said that terrorism is dissolving alliances and commitment to international security. It’s especially worth noting that the main reaction by British Muslims was to denounce terrorism and offer to help catch the men who did it. Ferguson would do well to observe that many more Muslims are appalled and revolted by the tactics of terrorists, than ever would applaud such actions.

When Jihadist terrorists murdered hundreds of children held hostage in a school at Beslan, the response was not submission or a massive repression. Even though the Russian occupation of Chechnya is controversial, the Russian response to this atrocity was measured and restrained in context. This demonstrates a level of strategy and resolve beyond Ferguson’s understanding.

These points and others demonstrate the reason why the Coalition remains a viable alliance, despite the misleading publicity given to the few who have cut and run. In plain fact, Europe has not lost its ideals and nerve, and the Jihadists have not gained influence and support to anything like the degree Ferguson pretends. Whether by accident or connivance, Ferguson ignores the overwhelming majority of Middle East people and nations to pretend ascendancy for a militant few. Such a fundamental misunderstanding of the region invalidates all assumptions and calculations drawn upon it.

Ferguson casts Iran’s sociopathic President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in the role of an Islamic Hitler, and I admit the caricature is appealing to the emotion. Ferguson properly observes the incendiary quality of Ahmadinejad’s claim that the Holocaust was a “myth”. It is correct to voice concern when a national leader describes a neighboring sovereign country as a “disgraceful blot”, to be wiped “off the map”. Yet Ferguson fails to observe the basic question of capability, and of reaction to such an attempt. Ahmadinejad speaks in much the same way as Castro did, and Castro could never make good on his threats. Ferguson seems to just want to inflate the madman's credibility. Ferguson here follows with a series of statements which are dubious or even outright false in their claims. Said Ferguson, about the possibility of removing the Iranian reactor through air strikes;

The Israelis had shown themselves capable of pre-emptive air strikes against Iraq's nuclear facilities in 1981.”

This presumes that the United States would wish to use Israel as a proxy, and also that Israel would be inclined to take on such a role. There is no evidence to support either contention.

Similar strikes against Iran's were urged on President Bush by neo-conservative commentators throughout 2006.”

Many conservative commentators, including myself, have better imagination and comprehension of the region than that. Ferguson presumes that force would be the most effective response, but in actual fact there is much reason to doubt that opinion. Not only has Iran prepared for an anticipated attack, but also there are strategic choke points which would damage the Iranian programs effectively, without providing an incident that Iran could effectively use as propaganda against the United States. These options include economic sanctions, blockade, and subversive actions against Iran, such as contaminating the uranium stocks used by Iran. Further, the development of nuclear weapons, as Iran doubtless intends to build, depend on a number of crucial requirements, which the U.S. is well-positioned to deny. While such actions are more complex and difficult than simply dropping bombs where we think the plants and materials are kept, in the long run thy could well yield better results. Consider how the average American considered 3 Mile Island, which was never anything but a civilian power plant, and imagine the Iranian response to an accident at a plant designed to make nuclear weapons, which themselves could not be used in anything but a war likely to kill millions of Iranians. Ferguson, like Ahmadinejahd, has not thought this matter through to any great degree.

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 had been discredited by the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein had supposedly possessed and by the failure of the US-led coalition to quell a bloody insurgency.”

Ferguson is quite wrong on both counts. It needs saying, yet again, that the inspectors did find weapons in Iraq, though not in the numbers anticipated, but more to the point, they discovered that the WMD programs were still a high priority to Saddam Hussein, and if the invasion had not happened, the development of strategic weapons would indeed have begun again and very quickly. The consensus of those who have seen the evidence is that the invasion was indeed justified and necessary. As to the insurgency, the fact that the men committing the majority of violence are foreign to Iraq disproves the “insurgency” claim. And the fact that the terrorists in Iraq have been more and more turning their guns on Iraqi Army and police instead of U.S. troops since the last two elections in Iraq, demonstrates that this “insurgency” is in fact nothing more than a foreign-supported attempt to prevent genuine self-rule by Iraq; and the results of the past two elections, both with greater-than-predicted levels of participation, shows that Iraq is well on the road to taking care of itself. The U.S. still needs to assist in Iraq, but Ferguson is either lying or has made a colossal blunder in overlooking the general success of the American mission in Iraq.

As in the 1930s, too, the West fell back on wishful thinking.” Ferguson demonstrates that he has no operation knowledge of groups like the SAS or people like the American Director of National Intelligence.

The optimists argued that the Cuban Missile Crisis would replay itself in the Middle East. Both sides would threaten war - and then both sides would blink. That was Secretary Rice's hope - indeed, her prayer - as she shuttled between the capitals. But it was not to be.”

Ferguson demonstrates a complete lack of perception regarding American post-9/11 diplomacy. Rice does not make that mistake. The Bush State Doctrine, as many well know, is not one to allow a threat to grow beyond redress.

Ferguson proceeds down his imaginative fallacy: “The devastating nuclear exchange of August 2007 represented not only the failure of diplomacy, it marked the end of the oil age. Some even said it marked the twilight of the West. Certainly, that was one way of interpreting the subsequent spread of the conflict as Iraq's Shi'ite population overran the remaining American bases in their country and the Chinese threatened to intervene on the side of Teheran.

Failing to understand the U.S. military, Ferguson presumes a nuclear event would be allowed to proceed. Failing to understand the Iraqi identity in the aftermath of free elections, Ferguson assumes that Iraqis would act in the image of a nation almost completely unlike themselves. Failing to perceive the new identity of women and youth in the Middle East, in places like Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, Ferguson fails to understand the present actions behind the scenes in the Middle East, and the importance of true Sovereignty and Self-Determination to the Arab states, Ferguson presumes that the majority would act in imitation of the worst among them. And failing to understand the Chinese Grand Strategy in Southwest Asia, Ferguson does not understand why Beijing will work to rein in Iran, albeit quietly, rather than encourage Jihadist movements which would threaten their own frontiers in short order.

Niall Ferguson does do one service to the matter – he demonstrates how so many people, understanding only one perspective and proceeding from a series of rash assumptions, can oppose the very actions which remove the dangers they fear, and will ridicule the people whose words and plans are better suited to the moment and its challenge. That is, we can be very glad that God has provided us with the likes of George W. Bush and Tony Blair to address such a crisis, instead of the likes of Niall Ferguson. It is a small matter then, that years from now when the events in Iran are seen in retrospect, academics like Ferguson will forget their dire predictions and claim there was never a threat at all, or else that we were providentially spared from the approaching disaster, rather than crediting the plans and foresight of the men and women who faced the crisis. Bloggers like myself will be there to set the record straight, and the people will decide.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

PFL Divisional Playoffs


American Conference
Teddy Roosevelt (17-0) 24, Monroe (14-4) 12
Reagan (17-0) 26, Washington (16-2) 6

National Conference
George W. Bush (17-0) 26, Jefferson (14-4) 9
Eisenhower (16-1) 24, Franklin Roosevelt (15-3) 9

Conference Championships
Reagan at Teddy Roosevelt
Eisenhower at George W. Bush