Friday, February 24, 2006



As I begin this series, I must caution my readers that this series is going to be a bit different from my usual discussions. To present an image of alternative future, and to satisfy my own curiosity on the question, I will be presenting a narrative, largely fictional, on how a nuclear war might be fought here in the post-Cold War days of the Global War on Terror. I cannot promise a high quality of storyline, nor will the detail be comprehensive. This is going to follow a framework I learned some years ago, in a scenario simulation game called “REALTIME”.

REALTIME was a role-playing game developed in the mid-1980s for the purpose of preparing mid-level business and government leaders for crisis management. As is the case in a real crisis, complete knowledge is not possible, and rumors are inevitably mixed in with true facts, and confusion is a real factor which hinders an effective response. REALTIME was as much a psychological test to see how managers and officers handled unexpected stress and sudden high-paced decisions as the quality of those decisions. With the decline in likely confrontation between the USA and USSR, the popularity of such simulations declined and there was never a significant commercial market to turn REALTIME into a recreational game, especially as this RPG emphasized dialogue and strategic decisions, rather than action in the gaming sense.

REALTIME was played as a civilian component to a hypothetical military event, where participants would be alerted to actions as they happened, in real time. Reponses and decisions had to made on the fly, with little chance for preparation or deep inspection. It has been speculated that various versions of the simulation helped to convince world leaders that a nuclear event must be avoided at all costs, because of the strong likelihood that such an event would pressure all involved parties to escalate quickly, out of a “use it or lose it” mentality. Theater warfare was the most common end result of these simulations.

That said, conditions have changed with the fall of the USSR, and so there may not be the same desperate fear of annihilation which pervaded previous scenarios. The scenario I will create here will be far from complete, and should in no way be taken as an indicator of likely decisions and actions. What I am hoping to do here is combine the scenario which the program will produce, and submit it for comment by the readers. Stealing shamelessly from the writers of ‘24’, I will be presenting the scenario in segments of an hour each.

UPDATE: I will cotinue to present hourly installment,s but interruptions at various timestamps will also continue.

Shooting At Our Friends


"The terrorists want our nation to become distrustful," England said. "They want us to become paranoid and isolationist, and my view is we cannot allow this to happen. It needs to be just the opposite."

- Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, former Secretary of the Navy, also the first Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. England is completely correct, and this whole episode of false accusations against DP World and the U.A.E. has done more damage to American long-term interests in the Middle East than the last year of terrorist operations, because it supports the charge that Americans are racist and cannot discern between their friends and enemies in the Middle East.

Whether or not the deal goes through now, damage has been done, and the questions now revolve around how to prevent a recurrence of this type. Obviously, port security needs a closer look than it has received, but it should be cast in something more mature than a panic-filled collection of worst-case possibilities. Most people don’t realize that port security has been a significant element in national security since the days of Sir Francis Drake, who reportedly hired Basque workers to sabotage the Spanish Armada in 1588. A few action movies based on faulty information (and really, do we want to give the enemy solid information on how we protect our ports?) and Hollywood’s poor opinion of the United States military have managed to scare people into thinking that our docks are under the collective management of some variant of the Three Stooges. But I leave that discussion for now, if for no reason beyond the fact that few people have cool heads to discuss it.

But the issue also brings into question the matter of the Middle East as a whole. To win the War on Terror, we essentially have three options, none of them easy:

1. Kill everyone in the Middle East, except for Israel.
2. Pick a border and hide behind it, a la “Fortress America”.
3. Destroy enemies, make friends, and establish democracy

That’s it folks, you have to choose one of them. There really is no viable fourth option that I can think of. Option one is, of course, not really feasible. It might be possible to wipe out the entire Middle East if one were truly determined, but not without killing off Israel as well, and a lot of other people. But the big reason is simply that the United States recognizes individuals, and while it may be necessary to kill some innocent individuals in order to win a necessary war, it is inconceivable that the United States would knowingly wipe out a region of the world in order to eradicate terrorism, even if we did not have allies in those countries as well. The second option has been tried before; it was popular with Jimmy Carter, for instance, and through History by a number of nations. It’s never worked, and always leads to the enemy kicking in your door.

So we are left with the third option, as was obvious from the beginning. Our military is very, very good at the ‘destroy enemies’ part – so much so that a declassified intercept of Al Qaeda’s transmissions (thank you Austin Bay) includes warning that AQ’s operatives “are experiencing one setback after another and have gone from misfortune to disaster.” In simple terms, it means we have killed a lot of Jihadists, and a lot of the ones left out there have to wear come variant of Depends as they become better acquainted with American military doctrine.

But there remains the larger job, of establishing a stable alternative to the whacked-out hysteria of praising Allah by killing people. For some reason, maybe Michael “Feed Me” Moore and his ilk, far too many people still do not understand that nations in the Middle East are not identical to one another, and even within a given nation, you can find a wide range of individuals and groups. Certainly not as wide as in the United States, but even so, those who see only in monochrome miss a lot of what is going on. Iran, for instance. On one level there can be no question now that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is as unbalanced as Adolf Hitler, or at least on the level of Josef Stalin – a canny but extraordinarily cruel man who delights in planning death and destruction. This nutcase truly believes, for instance, that he was surrounded by a green halo when he spoke at the United (Socialist) Nations in 2005, and is on record as claiming the Holocaust never happened. He also blamed the bombing of an historic Mosque on the United States and Israel. Sounds a bit like his version of the Reichstag fire, don’t you think?

Yet in that same country there are thousands of young students, risking their safety to protest against the government, and to demand freedom and rights, even when they are imprisoned and beaten for doing so. This, in Iran! Imagine the possibilities, if the youth in Germany had protested against Hitler in 1937 in this way.

Also, there are nations whose records in how they act towards Americans and to our government, are distinctly worth recognizing. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), for example, are scorned in public as somehow unstable or untrustworthy, but their record shows strong support for U.S. policies and the military, and their courage standing up to Osama Bin Hellbound when the name meant a real threat is not something which should be forgotten.

Yes, two of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks came from the UAE, but they had no government connections, and cannot be said to accurately represent the government’s policies anymore than Timothy McVeigh, an American citizen who served in the Army, reflected American citizens’ views or the governments policies when he set off his bomb in Oklahoma City.

Yes, it was official UAE policy to recognize the Taliban, but the United States still officially recognizes only the Communist “People’s Republic of China” as the legitimate government of China, but not the freely elected leaders on the island which we call Taiwan.

Context matters; Hysteria is quite unwanted.

A reader earlier this week mentioned that the United States has treated our allies in the Middle East as disposable. Perhaps in a military sense and in the short-term, you can get away with that, but in the long run, the only way we win in the Middle East is to establish permanent and serious ties with the good guys over there.

Such good guys do exist. I know this because I have met some of them, and heard from more, and know about many more. And our military and our government people know them, as well. They include people in their militaries, the police in their cities, even their businessmen. I’m not pretending that your average Arab looks forward to the day when he can work a 40-hour week for a corporation, have hot dogs and beer for lunch and watch baseball on TV, but I can promise you there are Arabs and Middle-Eastern men who want to take care of their families, who want honest government and even-handed laws, who want to practice their faith without fear of violence or repression, and who want a decent chance to succeed on their own skills. I know this, because I have talked with such men. And there are places where they have hammered out something not unlike a decent nation.

In the end, the United States can only build a solid and successful Middle East by creating and building strong alliances. Not out of fear from a Communist or Fascist enemy, but by stressing common ground and purpose, by disproving the lie that Americans hate Arabs and Islam, and by showing we are willing to trust those nations to a certain degree. We already are, you know, by putting some of our bases in their hands and trusting our servicemen to their people in many ports of call. I am not saying we should become naïve about real security issues, but the terrorists win if they get started shooting at our friends.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Fear Not, You Who Are Just


Liberals are cowards. Yes, I know how that sounds, but I have been scrolling through some of the threads on liberal blogs (stopping to take a shower every so often, or read a bit from the Federalist papers to re-orient my mind in proper order) and a few of the more popular liberal websites which discuss the War on Terror, the 9/11 attacks, and the political climate since President Clinton was in office. And what I see, is a collective paranoia which pervades every issue and infects every discussion. I’m actually surprised that the Avian flue has not yet been designated a Rove/Dubya conspiracy by the Aluminati, but maybe that’s just waiting for the “right” time.

Not that all conservatives are brave, though. I realize that a portion of those 62 million voters who gave Dubya a second term in 2004 did so out of fear of terrorism, fear of Jihadism, and fear of losing our way of life. To some degree, both Liberals and Conservatives share that sense, that the world we know is gone, and this creates a sense of the unknown, which in turn generates and feeds fear.

Of course the Jihadists know about that fear. They wanted to create it, for it to grow, and to drive our decisions and actions. If the United States begins to do what the Jihadists expect us to, then the Jihadists believe that they will gain the upper hand, and inevitably gain victory over the West, whom they see as too weak and flaccid to prevail in the long term. This is why the Jihadists reacted so badly to the invasion of Iraq – they never expected a military to win on those terms, nor the President of the United States to show steel in his resolve and focus. Bin Laden is quoted as saying “We love death. The US loves life. That is the difference between us two.” If that were so, then both of us are getting what we love. But in actual fact, the Jihadists only love death because they think they will mostly be the ones delivering it, not receiving it. The US Military has dissuaded tens of thousands of them from that fallacy.

The Jihadists cannot win, except they convince us to give up and leave. That was the game plan for Vietnam, and for South America and Africa, and so it remains the plan used by our enemy here. If we keep the course and stand by our friends, we cannot lose, and whatever the press says of America’s image, enough real democracies and we will enjoy great profit, whether in business terms or our political alliances. The Jihadists know this, and they are greatly afraid.

All through History, there is usually one power which enjoys the most power, but only a few truly supreme powers. With the end of the USSR, the United States is just such a power, unmatched in any significant measure. The Jihadists make the mistake of believing their own propaganda, and so believe that wealth has made America weak, that comfort has made America timid, and that victory has made us stupid. Certainly some of our politicians have helped to feed that image. But the Jjihadists are also limited. In the past, when a power was truly supreme, other nations found it necessary to try one of four basic strategies to deal with it. They would make alliances or treaties if they could, but not only do the Jihadists hate such a notion, they actually have nothing to offer in the way of a treaty, anyway. And of course, by now negotiation is quite out of the question.

The second means is to form alliances against the superior power, to hold them back or to attack a flank to weaken the power. Unfortunately for the Jihadists, this too is not a viable option. The United States, contrary to the lies from people like Moore and Gore, has established a firm reputation for honoring its commitments and keeping its word, certainly better than many other nations and the traditional empires of the past. This makes treaties and agreements with the United States much more attractive to most Middle East governments than aligning with the Jihadists, whatever their leaders may say to Al-Jazeera. And so the Jihadists, partly due to American integrity and partly due to their own radical agenda, find themselves largely alone in their cause. They can rouse a mob to create a riot, and they can kill innocent people here and there, but in military terms, they are not in a position to launch a true offensive, even if Iran throws in officially behind them.

The third way is guerilla warfare, and on first glance this may appear to be the Jihadfists’ plan in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet their plans in those countries are failing. Yes, they can kill civilians and the occasional soldier or two, but they are continuing to lose not only territory, but support among the people. The people of Iraq and Afghanistan are coming to terms with the reality that they truly own their own country, and what happens is up to them. If the United States stays resolute, then inside of four years these nations will be thriving and self-sufficient. And an absolute nightmare for the Jihadists.

So, only one weapon remains for the Jihadists: fear. That was why the September 11th attacks were planned as they were. Bin Laden ignored military bases and a direct confrontation with US forces, and went after office buildings and landmarks. He was hoping to cause fear and terror among ordinary people, and so to foment a demand for retreat. The Democrats obliged him, but not the President, nor the American people. And as time passes, even as the cost rises the determination remains strong, and by the time the last Jihadist leader comprehends the scale of his blunder, it will be about the same time that free governments are installed in the last of the Middle East nations which presently think suicide bombing is a valid means of conducting policy.

Open message to the Jihadists: You’re going to lose, and the only thing you love which will remain to you in the end, will be the death you so admire and pursue. But I would not desire death, were I you. You have already murdered innocent people, including women and children, and for such as you there is no Paradise, only the torment of a just resolution. But as you desire death, rest assured we will bring yours to you as soon as Allah allows.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Seaport Security – Tip of the Iceberg or Another Verse From Chicken Little?


The proposal to sell long-term leases to six U.S. seaports to Dubai Ports World, a company from the United Arab Emirates, has raised the important question of seaport security. A great many people assume that the sale, if it goes through, would weaken US security and potentially allow terrorists access to the United States through our ports. The debate has generated a lot of noise and anger already, making it difficult to sort out the facts from the paranoia.

First, what was the reason for suggesting the deal in the first place? Basically, a British-owned company, P&O Ports, wants to sell operating leases to six of the ports it controls in the United States. And this is important when you look at the makeup of U.S. seaport operations.

There are 361 seaports in the United States. The Top 25 by freight weight (2003) are in the following locations (tonnage in ‘short tons’):

South Louisiana, LA (198.8 Million Tons)
Houston, TX (190.9 Million Tons)
New York, NY-NJ (145.9 Million Tons)
Beaumont, TX (87.5 Million Tons)
New Orleans, LA (83.8 Million Tons)
Huntington, WV (77.6 Million Tons)
Corpus Christi, TX (77.2 Million Tons)
Long Beach, CA (69.2 Million Tons)
Texas City, TX (61.3 Million Tons)
Baton Rouge, LA (61.3 Million Tons)
Plaquemines, LA (55.9 Million Tons)
Lake Charles, LA (53.4 Million Tons)
Los Angeles, CA (51.3 Million Tons)
Mobile, AL (50.2 Million Tons)
Valdez, AK (49.9 Million Tons)
Tampa, FL (48.3 Million Tons)
Pittsburgh, PA (41.7 Million Tons)
Baltimore, MD (40.2 Million Tons)
Duluth-Superior, MN-WI (38.3 Million Tons)
Philadelphia, PA (33.2 Million Tons)
St. Louis, MO-IL (32.4 Million Tons)
Pascagoula, MS (31.3 Million Tons)
Norfolk Harbor, VA (31.2 Million Tons)
Freeport, TX (30.5 Million Tons)
Portland, ME (29.2 Million Tons)

Of these, Peninsular & Oriental navigation (P&O Ports) has part or whole ownership of the operating leases in eleven of the top U.S. ports. P&O Ports is a British company based in London, which has part or whole ownership in 85 seaports worldwide. And P&O Ports has decided to divest itself of about half of its U.S. seaport investment. Why?

Because seaports are expensive and sometimes difficult to run. American seaports often have environmental and operational restrictions which annoy the lease owners and chase away capital investment. The whole reason for the leases, in actual fact, is that there are four classes of people working through the ports:

· Ship owners and operators, who want to move freight
· Property owners, who often build warehouses near the port facilities
· The Port Authority for each port; and
· Operations Management companies

At the risk of sounding trite, port operation is not all that different from running a very large grocery operation – you have to move a lot of items, some fragile, some time-sensitive, some just plain difficult to move, in a very short frame of time. You have to keep ship traffic flowing and you have to keep all kinds of inspectors and officials happy. And no one pays any attention to you, unless and until something goes wrong.

I suspect this was how the deal was pitched to the President – as a change only in operational management, with no change at all in the substance. The Department of Homeland Security still holds authority for security, with the Coast Guard and the Customs Service as the first responders to any concerns, regardless of who holds the operations lease. The individual ports each also stipulate conditions for ship traffic, cargo documentation and handling, and these are based on long experience and attention to practical feasibility. The Port of South Louisiana, for instance, the largest U.S. port in terms of tonnage, notes that the requirements and restrictions on port operations of any kind are subject to the terms agreed to by the Gulf Seaports Marine Terminal Conference, whose members are all American citizens and all with direct and specific experience in ports and shipping, represented by members of Port and Navigation authorities from thirteen separate U.S. ports or navigable waterways.

As for the fact that two of the 9/11 terrorists were from the U.A.E., this is in no way a valid indicator to pretend U.A.E. is not a staunch ally of the United States. After all, Timothy McVeigh was a U.S. citizen and served in the Army, but that hardly means that the Oklahoma City bombing was popular with or sanctioned by the U.S. Army. Same lack of logic, you see.

Also, there is a trade problem with the deal. The British held the leases without any restriction about selling them, and so it will come across to many nations as unreasonable for the United States to now say a British company must abide by a condition not stipulated to in any of the agreements, and on no better basis than the fear that an ally of the United States would fail to use good judgment in their oversight of DP World. Imagine, as a counterpoint, if the People’s Republic of China retaliated by demanding the immediate redemption of U.S. Treasury Bonds in specie. No, that condition is not mentioned anywhere in the bond sales, but if national interest without evidence can be so used, what would stop China from making just such a demand?

Also, there is an historical component to the deal. Most Americans do not realize that foreign investment was not only common to the early American industry, but was actually essential. More than seventy percent of the First Bank of the United States was owned by foreign investment, at a time when such investment could easily have led to manipulation of U.S. policies. So too the case for our railroads, which were largely made possible by capital investment by other countries. So, foreign ownership of strategic resources is by no means new or unreasonable in most cases.

Yet I am not willing to say we should rubber-stamp the deal. I do not think it is right to immediately castigate the deal, but neither do I agree that we should ignore the action. Certainly, it is a good idea to explain how the operating lease works, what must be done by the buyer to protect security and what prevents the buyer from causing or allowing actions which put the United States in danger. I am one of those people who believes the U.A.E. is a good ally to America, who should be encouraged to invest here and take part in our mutual future. Yet I also believe it is best for the foreign investor, whatever his homeland, to be transparent about his intention and policies.

It is also important to understand the scale of our danger, however. The Department of Transportation notes that freight comes into and out from the United States in a number of ways, including seaports but also airports, trucks, and rail. So in addition to ships, you have to worry about trains, planes, trucks and automobiles bringing in bad people and dangerous weapons. And as for the ports, I personally worry less about the most significant ports, which also attract the bulk of attention from law enforcement and the DHS, than I do about the hundreds of small ports which get very little attention at all. If I was going to sneak in a WMD, for example, I wouldn’t try New York or Houston or Long Beach, but rather one of the places no one ever thinks about. Just like the coyotes who have been bringing illegals across the border have done for more than a century.

And let’s not forget about who could be helping terrorists besides port lease operators. Remember I mentioned that ports have a lot of warehouses in their territory? Well, those warehouses are not inspected nearly as closely as the cargo coming in through the port. In fact, if I wanted to have a chemical weapon go off at, say, the Port of Houston, instead of trying to sneak it in through the Port, I would just truck it in over the border, park the trailer in one of the port warehouses, and boom. Or, I could just rent storage near one of the major airports, if I preferred, say, to take out Bush Intercontinental Airport. Not that hard to do, because there is a lot of unmonitored storage space at seaports, docks, airports, and railyards.

And let’s not get too happy on the idea that Arab countries are the only source of terrorism. Sure, the Jihadists are a pretty nasty bunch, but let’s not forget that Spain’s home-grown ETA helped plan and carry out the Madrid bombing, and that British Muslims helped carry out the London bombing. So we really don’t need to worry about the U.A.E., whose doctrine and policies have always been very pro-U.S., when we can find so many dangerous types very close to home.

I still haven’t made up my mind about whether the deal is a good idea or a bad one. But we should try to keep separate the assumptions from the facts, and the prejudice from better judgment.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Why The Threat Is Good News


Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (sanity free since 1978) has been making a name for himself over the past year, by making statements which may charitably be described as inflammatory and perjorative. Among the most commonly cited quotes are the ones which deny the occurrence of the Holocaust during World War 2, which demand the destruction of the nation of Israel and imply the destruction of America, and which give strong support to the belief that Iran is pursuing not just nuclear power, but nuclear weapons, and that once such weapons are possessed, they will be used on Iran’s enemies.

I have long puzzled over these remarks, as they are not something which any reasonable man would say in public, even if they exactly match his sentiments. Some people have claimed that Ahmadinejad made these comments because he is truly a madman, and honestly believes what he says. Others mention that they believe Ahmadinejad is the puppet of other men, who desire that he should make such statements. Certainly, the immediate effect of such bombast is to embolden the Jihadists, many of whom lack the capacity to understand the cost and peril of their quest, and there is a certain political logic to such rants, in line with what we have heard before from Hamas, Hizbollah, and other terrorist groups. The recent election of Hamas to leadership of the Palestinian Authority demonstrates that for many in the Middle East, there is no concern about choosing murderers to stand for the government. Yet I still read these statements as provocative, as if Ahmedinejad is goading the United States and Israel, trying to provoke something, and I wonder why that is so.

It came to me then , that what we are seeing and hearing, is actually good news, further confirmation that we are winning in Iraq. To explain that, I will have to step back and provide a brief overview.

In 1979, Saddam Hussein seized power in Iraq, just about the same time that the Ayatollah Khomeini grabbed control in Iran. The two men were very much like predecessors in Europe, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin. In both cases, the men each held near sole control of a major military and economic power. Both coveted the other nation, and plotted to invade. Both believed they could bluff their way into gaining a position from which to strike. And just as Hitler struck while Stalin was still getting ready, so Hussein struck Iran while the Ayatollah’s army was still preparing. Everyone pretty much saw the fight coming.

Of course, the fight between Hitler and Stalin didn’t work out the same way that the fight between Saddam and Khomeini did. Both Saddam and Khomeini were angered that the Middle East largely wanted to stay out of the war, and both men were further upset by the way the U.S. played the middle – selling weapons early to Saddam because they (correctly) believed Khomeini meant to invade Iraq, then pulling that support and even selling a few weapons to Iran to prevent Saddam from taking over Iran. Reagan understood that neither dictator could be allowed to win, and mad sure of it. This was also a reason why the first President Bush did not “finish the job” and take out Saddam in 1991; he knew that the United Nations might allow the U.S. to remove Saddam, but not to select his replacement, leading to a power vacuum which would most likely be resolved by Iranian tanks.

So, as of 1991 the Middle East appeared to be going as it always had, but with two significant changes. The Soviet Union was fading away, and was already irrelevant in military terms to the Middle East. Also, the Middle East was plagued with regional warlords and terrorist groups, and neither President Clinton nor any of the European leaders showed any interest in cleaning up the mess. So both conditions festered, allowing the Jihadists to believe that they had been the ones to kill the Communist Empire, and that the West was weak and cowardly. And so this led to a cowardly attack on September 11th, in the stupid blunder of believing that the United States would not strike back, and would be forced to negotiate on terms favorable to the Jihadists, or simply abandon the Middle East altogether. As has been said about other people, the Jihadists ‘misunderestimated’ George W. Bush and the United States military.

Iran was actually very well-behaved on the surface during the early parts of the War in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the Mullahs were clearly upset at the installation of what must have seemed a pro-Western regime in Baghdad, the overall impression given by Iran’s diplomats and representatives was one of reserve and calm. However, even as early as the summer of 2003, the State Department was worried by signs of Iran’s non-compliance with IAEA requirements, particularly facilities designed to enrich uranium and experiments involving Polonium-210, which is a nuclear weapons initiator with no commercial value. Personally, I have no doubt that the President was aware of such developments long before they were released to the public, and that a secondary reason for the invasion of Iraq was to prevent an invasion by Iran. Certainly a free Iraq is a thorn in the side of the Jihadists, not only because an occupied Iraq would have been a great economic prize for Iran, and would have fueled the military adventure which the Mullahs so clearly want to pursue. Instead of a weak army headed by an unpopular and apostate tyrant, Iran now looks to Iraq and sees a free nation with a duly elected legislature and framework for a strong future on many levels, guarded by the world’s best-trained and most-advanced military force. Even Ahmadinejad understands that he cannot win a war against the United States as things stand, especially if he is foolish enough to strike the first blow by invading Iraq. Even if he acquires nuclear weapons, it hardly brings Iran equal to American capabilities, and there are few nations which would choose to stand alongside the Mullahs against the Marines. It’s one thing to wear masks and carry signs, knowing the police will protect a “right” to burn flags and riot, up to a point. It’s quite another to believe that the United States, already aware of how many IEDs and terrorists are brought into Iraq from Iran, would not crush Iran at the first opportunity. More than a few American generals are hoping for a chance to take out the fascists in Teheran, rather than let them breed the way Al Qaeda did during the 1990s.Not that the Americans are gun-happy, but they are well aware that the threat wil lonely grow with time or apathy.

And that brings me to why Ahmadinejad is playing his hand the way he has chosen. Direct military confrontation with America is not a good choice for the Jihadists right now, so they greatly prefer to keep the fighting at the “insurgent” level, which is to say Iran denies any hand in the murders of civilians and police and the occasional soldier with its roadside bombs and other low-level attacks. And Iran is far too much the pariah to fool anyone into believing that they would be a good citizen, to be trusted with agreements and treaties; Ahmadinejad understands that after Kim Jong-Il’s little stunt, the United States is not going to take Iran’s promise of good behavior at face value. So he has fallen back to what appears to be his most promising tack; the annoying madman. In President Ahmadinejad’s eyes, the history since 1979 shows the United States as vacillating, weak-willed and unwilling to carry a burden for very long. Within weeks of the 9/11 attacks, Democrats were already complaining about preparations for the American response, and within months of the fall of Baghdad, the press and the liberals were screaming for us to leave. Ahmadinejad is presenting himself as unstable, in order to frighten the gullible in the United States, and to show up the Americans in Muslim eyes. If he succeeds, the pullback from Iraq will allow Iran to plan and eventually carry out the invasion of Iraq, just as they planned all along. This invasion can only succeed if the Americans can be tricked into leaving before Iraq is truly self-supporting. This is the prime hope of the Mullahs in Teheran.

The second possibility, in the Jihadists’ eyes, is almost as appealing. If the United States invades Iran and appears to be the aggressor, the Mullahs will scream that such is an invasion not of a terrorist sponsor and rogue power, but an invasion of one of Islam’s strongest defenders. Count on Al-Jazeerah to make extensive use of a lot of video of “attacks” on mosques, even if it has to blow them up itself to create the image of American attacks. This, in the mind of the Mullahs, would expand the war by pulling in Islamic allies from all around Iran, from Syria and from Saudi Arabia and from Sudan and from Egypt; great pressure would be brought against any nation with a Muslim majority to support the “defense” of Iran, which would then be used as the pretext to invade “apostate” nations like Iraq and Jordan, and of course Israel if the opportunity seems ripe. As unrealistic as the plan sounds, this is precisely what the Mullahs are hoping will happen.

Why is this good news? Because fanatic though he is, Ahmadinejad has seen video of Saddam on trial, of women voting in Afghanistan and Iraq, of children getting to learn about the world as it really is in the 21st Century, rather than how Mohammed or Ali or Saladin might have envisioned it, of private citizens getting to live freely, and he understands that the Americans just might be able to do what they promise, and that his own future might also include hiding from Americans in a hole, while the world moves even further away from his dream of Jihad. He is forced to gamble on a desperate move, and one which shows no comprehension of the character of his opponents or their ideals. He senses defeat in Iraq, just as it is settling down in Afghanistan. Two or three more years of practicing democracy in Iraq, and no mullah may be able to shake the Iraqi people from it, and no Iranian army may matter in the decision between Jihad and personal rights, between a culture of repression and one of self-expression, between the old tyranny of the past and the bright hope of the future. Ahmadinejad screams his threats out of fear and despair, because he knows he is losing and the clock is running out. God willing his nightmare, a truly free and peaceful Middle East, will come to pass just as he fears.

Monday, February 20, 2006

There’s Immigrants and There’s Immigrants

.. h

One area where President Bush is admittedly weak with his base, is the issue of Illegal Immigration (the capital letters let you know it’s important). Many conservatives are unhappy, verging on outrage, that Bush has not proposed a plan to eliminate illegal entry into the United States, and to raise the issue of Border Security to a higher alert status, as it were. The problem I have with that criticism, is that it doesn’t offer much of a comprehensive alternative to the Bush plan, and it doesn’t address the concrete steps the Bush plan will take to focus DHS attention on the truly dangerous criminals and likely allies to terrorists. It also fails to address a significant political reality.

This morning I had the pleasure to hear Stephen Moore discuss President Bush’s proposal with William Bennett on “Morning in America”. Mr. Moore, no cheerleader for the White House, was quick to point out just what I have been saying all along, and to add a question he asked his own parents, when they objected to the way new citizens come to America. ‘Why don’t they come here legally, the way our ancestors did?’ Moore says his parents demanded. ‘How sure are you that they did come here legally?’ countered Moore, reminding Dr. Bennett that the immigration and entry laws of the United States have varied widely over the years, and many now-respectable families started out by skirting the law to some extent. At one time or another, immigration was severely restricted or even illegal for such groups as Chinese, Catholics, Jews, Irish, Africans, and religious minorities. And social attitudes were only recently broadened to allow employment and education to all citizens. My own father told me tales about Philadelphia businesses which would neither hire nor serve blacks, Jews, or Irish. So it should not surprise people to discover that U.S. law was capricious in its treatment of people wishing to enter the country, and more than a few who live here permanently had to bend rules to do so. It hardly means I am excusing illegal entry, but we should be careful to understand that the United States has never yet practiced a consistent immigration system. Until the past century, immigrants, whether legal or not were considered as a group to be valuable to the economy and no threat to the government. While certain groups have been considered undesirable, like the ban on Asian immigration enacted by Teddy Roosevelt’s Administration (note that the ban was not especially effective), and the restrictions imposed during World War 1 and World War 2 set the tone for not only necessary security actions, but also perjorative social engineering.

I have written on this issue before, and now as then I will doubtless find few enough minds open to the need to begin ab initio in developing a comprehensive and fungible policy for immigration, otherwise whatever is decided now will simply create a new set of problems in the years to come.

Democrats Fooling Themselves – Par Nauseum


Like the passing traveler who can’t help but gawk at the train wreck, I looked at the Washington Post’s online Op-Eds, and learned once again why the Left continues to lose despite itself. The irony this time, was that the writer was attempting to discover the Democrat’s misstep, but repeated it himself at the very start.

In a piece titled “Precriminations”, Dana Milbank was trying to present a wry suggestion that Democrats will be unable to convert “their biggest advantage over Republicans in 14 years” into election gains, because of the public perception of up to eleven Democratic leaders, plus the now de riguer tinfoil presumption that Karl Rove is somehow directing the Democrats’ missteps. While Milbank’s piece appears to be intended as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the Democrats’ higher order strategies, it demonstrates the blindness of even the Democrats’ allies. Milbanks supposes that four “issues” in particular – “Hurricane Katrina, Iraq, Jack Abramoff and now Harry Whittington” – are potentially huge assets to the Democrats, which is just short of completely wrong. Even the polls, which themselves are less than totally accurate in measuring opinion these days for reasons of weighting, acknowledge that the average American is aware that the response to Katrina was as much a local and state blunder as it ever was a federal mistake, that Jack Abramoff had connections to high-level Democrats as well as Republicans (Harry Reid, paging Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid), and that the Whittington accident was just that – an accident which hardly rises to the level of an “issue”. As for Iraq, Americans are not happy about the cost of the conflict, but in the last two elections they made their preference clear, and it’s not ‘cut n run’ – personally, I would love for the Democrats to keep trying that tack, seeing the results it has brought thus far, though part of me really does wish the Democrats would show some of that patriotism and support for the troops they so often vow is present.

Yet even where Milbanks correctly identifies Democrats who are likely to torpedo their own party, he misses the reasons for this self-destruction. For instance, Milbanks identified Gore as a problem for falsely accusing President Bush of criminal acts, yet he completely ignored his lies and near-seditious statements made just over a week ago in Jeddah. Granted, the entire MSM seems to be keeping the lid, as best they can, on Gore’s outrageous claims, but if you want to know why Gore is hurting the Democrats, let’s at least be clear about what he is saying, and how Americans react to it.

Next up, Murtha. Milbanks claims “[n]obody doubts that Jack Murtha, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, was acting on principle when he called for an immediate pullout from Iraq.”. Maybe on the Left that’s true Dana, but I know a lot of uniform-wearing Americans who took that demand as a cheap shot and political stunt. And that’s a really bad idea if you want Americans to see your party as in tune with the people, much less the patriots you keep claiming to be.

Yet some of Milbank’s would-be scapegoats seem ill-suited to the role. Joe Lieberman? Sure, Democrats hate him but a lot of reasonable people applauded his stand, which for once showed a Democrat with focus and principles. Yet Milbanks thinks he is a liability? As for Kerry, Biden, or Bill Clinton? Sorry Dana, but no one outside the DNC pays much attention to them. Has-beens, you know, seldom get the stage and for good reason. People laugh at these sorts, they do not take them seriously, so it’s a stretch to claim they are a factor in any real sense.

As long as Democrats don’t even recognize where their weaknesses are, they cannot hope to repair them.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Different Eternities

[ . ]

One of the truly significant differences between the Jihadists and the West, is the question of rewards. It has been said, correctly, that Jihadists are promised great sensual rewards in a Muslim Paradise. Small wonder, since it’s pretty obvious that dying for the cause is hardly going to mean comfort and success in this life. But looking through the Scriptures uised by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, it becomes apparent that the three religions have significantly different ideas for what happens after death.

Some theologians try to explain the differences in how the Tanakh addresses life after death as an evolving concept of Heaven and Hell. I find it striking that the Jews have the plainest explanation right from the start; do what is just, and you will not be ashamed. It’s not very hard at all to believe that is the word of God. Of course, the problem with Good and Evil is that there is some of each in everyone, which makes an absolute judgment difficult for people to accept or describe. It’s one thing to believe that you will be treated fairly, but an absolutely perfect delight or perfect hell makes people wonder where they will fall out. That’s why I have always found the Christian heaven a bit more believable; justice for those who can bear it, but mercy for everyone who needs it. I also think the Tanakh implies that same mercy from God, so it’s not as though the Christian heaven is directly in conflict with the Jewish one.

Islam, however, is quite another matter. The Quran makes clear that the afterlife, for Muslims at least, is a very sensuous and rather mortal-life amusement park. And I at least would become bored beyond belief in a very short order with such a trivial and petty version of eternity. As much enjoyment as a man might find with virgins, abundant food and drink, and whatever sexual or physical pleasures the conditions might afford (many Muslim apoligists seem unable to clarify on that point), the physical existence is only one dimension, and I should expect a blessed eternity to offer something for the mind at least, to say nothing of the emotions, heart, and of course the soul. Sorry to sound flippant, but it sounds as if Hugh Hefner and Donald Trump opened a combination grocery store/Halal deli/brothel and kept it supplied, Islam could literally have its heaven on earth right now.

But of course, that would lack the blood. Islam has a lot of that. Judaism was never big on forcing people to convert, and Christ taught His disciples to teach by the example of their love. But Islam was spread by the sword, indeed it only caught on because Mohammed himself went around killing anyone who wouldn’t convert to his belief. I understand that the men of his day were tough and ruthless, so maybe he just did what he had to, but it set a pattern which led to bloody conquest of dozens of countries, and which is used to justify countless atrocities by terrorists now. And the end-days ‘sayings’ attributed to Mohammed and other early Muslims are pretty darn violent. Most involve the coming of ‘al-Mahdi’ (literally, ‘the guided one’) who kills unbelievers in large numbers and in a greta variety of ways, the coming of an evil leader called ‘Dajjat’, kind of like the AntiChrist, who also goes around killing folks, and the Second Coming of Jesus, whom the Muslims call ‘Isa’. Only the Muslim version of Jesus defers authority to the Mahdi and to Mohammed, and is not heard to speak about being One with the Father, as He is quoted in the Gospels. And in the Muslim accounts, Isa goes around killing evil-doers and also personally kills Dajjat. All that violence makes it hard to sort out how they are the religion of peace, and their ‘Allah’ the deity of mercy and compassion.

Your goals often define your methods. Accordingly, it might do Islam a bit of good to reconsider Paradise, and give its believers a better focus.