Saturday, September 30, 2006

War: An Open Ended Equation

If you deal with numbers and probability where just about everything in life can be distilled into an equation, war is the exception. It is an open ended equation. The impact of a tax break or increase on the economy, popularity of a product and possible income for the originators, or even the possible outcomes for popping the question on a date can be calculated either objectively or subjectively and decisions can be made.

However, war – especially extended war – has proven open ended when begun. The actual outcome is often incalculable and sometimes even unfathomable. That is why you should never start a war. You should only go to war when you have to. Then, you are going to war to defend your existence and you will either win or lose, but you had no choice; the equation was forced on you.

The American Civil War, Napoleon’s bid to conquer Russia, and WWI and II, for example, changed everything for those directly and indirectly involved in these wars in ways that were never expected by those that began these wars.

The U.S. went into Vietnam for the same reason it had gone into Korea to contain communism and prevent another domino from following in the Domino theory. And even as the U.S. lost to the communist when they took over all of Vietnam, signs were already present that the free world had won the Cold War. Communism is doomed to become a footnote in history.

While containment played a vital part in the defeat of communism and mutual assured destruction kept the Cold War from becoming hot, peaceful coexistence and détente cause the communist countries to implode of the own weaknesses. The peace of the Cold War allowed the proof that free markets perform better than planned economies.

No one won the Cold War with a preemptive strike into the heart of an opposing country. While preemptive strike should be a component of any modern military, it should only be used in which the objective can be attained in a short time of less than one year. Longer period allows the open ended-ness of war to grow. The unknown unknowns exceeds both the known knowns and known unknowns in Rumsfledese.

As the Iraq War continues in its fourth year, one of the more ominous unknowns is escalation of a civil war to include the whole of the Middle East. The Neocons had dreamed the overthrow of Saddam and installation of a democracy in Iraq would have an impact on the rest of the Middle East. While their naïve theories had little chance in the real world, their actions may nonetheless impact the rest of the Middle East, but in ways they never anticipated.

Whether the Republicans keep the majority in both houses of Congress after the mid-term or lose one house and the investigations and hearings begin on the Bushes previous six years, whether we stay in Iraq or force to leave as quickly as possible, the unknown results of continued war will become knowns. Knowns we have to live with for years to come.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Waiting for Uncle Karl’s Other Shoe to Drop

If Karl Rove exercises a strategy that keeps the Republicans in power come this November, he truly deserves the crown of our modern day Machiavelli. I used to think that was Henry Kissinger, but if Rove’s party is victorious, he deserves the title.

I really don’t know which scenario is worse. The Republicans keep the majority and Bush and his foreign policy WINOs (wonks in name only) are allowed to continue stumbling their way through the next two years, or they lose the majority in one of the houses of Congress, investigations and inquires begin and the Bushies must spend all the time fighting to stay alive politically and the rest of the world goes on without American leadership (or without American miss-leadership in Bush’s case).

Vietnam fell because of a power vacuum in Washington after Nixon’s resignation. Something similar could happen if Bush has to fight an impeachment investigation or the loss of his key advisors due to investigations from Congress. Had a powerful President been sitting in Washington in the mid-1970's, South Vietnam might be a successful free country today. South Korea has a vibrate economy and is a modern country because the U.S. protected it after the Korean War and pumped it with lots of relief aide. The same thing could have happened in South Vietnam. Power vacuums in Washington are not to be taken lightly.

If I know my modern Machiavellian, Rove has a surprise for us in October. He has identified state elections that will be the targets of the Rovian strategy. Things will occur that the opponent will not have time to respond before the election. They will occur in one or all of the following:

1. ABC may edit the movie “Path to 9/11” so it is more acceptable to Democrats but copies of the original version of the movie have been distributed and will be shown to private audiences with all its propaganda and hidden messages. The original version may be rerun by local TV stations whose owners support Bush and the Republicans.
2. In conservative, fundamentalist church groups, charges will be made to the faithful about the Democratic candidate and that members need to serve God by voting for the Republican candidate.
3. Ugly push polls will be run spreading ruinous rumors about Democratic candidates.
4. Bugging of the Republican candidate’s offices that will be blamed on the Democratic candidate and cause a sympathy vote for the Republican candidate.
5. Embarrassing memos about the Republican candidate will surface, be published by local MSM, proven to be false, and blamed on the Democratic candidate.
6. Attacks on the Democratic candidate supposedly strong points. (Examples: swift boats against Kerry’s patriotism, questions about a judge in Alabama intent for children who was known as a defender of children, the patriotism of disabled veteran Max Cleland of Georgia)
7. And of course, tricks we have not seen before like the ones I’ve just listed.

Stay tuned.

Appeasement or Bait and Switch

I posted this over at DailyKos five days ago but I got no comments. I got nothing. Anyway, I decided to post it here, also.

So, without further ado–

OK Democrats, don't let the Bushies set the agenda. The issue is neither some Munich/WWII appeasement on terror nor "cut and run" in Iraq, it's the Neocons' inability to recognize the difference between a civil war and the war on terror.
We were promised a preemptive strike against terror and were baited and switched some previous grudge against Saddam and an idealistic dream of democracy and freedom in a pivotal Middle Eastern country.

To give credit were credit is due, Rumsfeld's idea for the military of doing more with less worked in the blitzkrieg overthrow of Saddam, but at the same time, the Iraqi War also proved the age old formula for the number of troops needed to hold a hostile country is still true. However, after reading "Cobra II", a strong argument could be made that the U.S. military's professionalism succeeded in spite of insufficient support, supplies, and Rumsfeld's restrictive meddling. So, maybe credit to Rumsfeld is not even due for the overthrow of Saddam. That's the problem: the real world just doesn't behave as the ideal world, and the Neocons' theories were oh so pretty.

And just as the Neocons fail to recognize the need for more troops to hold a position than to take it, they also fail to recognize that while repeated redeployments may increase the professionalism of a minority of soldiers and marines, for most, effectiveness plummets after more than two or three deployments with little to no separation between them. More on that here, here, and in WaPo.

The original military strategist, Sun Tzu, warned No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique. In other words the Neocons violated a basic tenet of war making that is as old as history itself. And we wonder why things went wrong in Iraq?

The tragedy of U.S. involvement in Iraq keeps a twisted version of a favorite Neocon saying from being laughable. In reality, it appears we are fighting over there to prevent Sunnis and Shiites from killing each other so we don't have to fight over here to prevent them from killing each other is the message I'm getting out of our Iraqi experience.

Terrorism is as old as civilization. Remember an avowed anarchist (terrorist) assassinated President McKinley in 1901 and that "little problem in the Balkans" with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a terrorist lead to WWI.

The war on terror is not the war against individual terrorist. The Neocons' fixation on Zarqawi and then his death with no discernable difference in the violence proves the Neocons can neither perceive the true enemy nor come up with a realistic plan to fight it. It's time to realize that even if we removed all of Al-Qaeda from Iraq, little would change in the day to day violence and what is driving it. If the violence in Iraq subsides because we got Al-Qaeda's number two man, then I'm wrong, but I don't think so.

Democrats, just as events in Iraq have proven the Bushies have no Plan B and lost the initiative, so too they can be forced to respond and explain their miserable record of understanding the foreign terrain in which they are operating. Again, a reformulation of one of their pet sayings: They can lose the initiative here just as much as they have lost it there.

The war on terror is a diplomatic and police action not a military one. This administration has shown it is sorely lacking in diplomatic capability and is only able to police and monitor its own citizens.

Calling all Blogs: Make them run on their record not that of the Democrats.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

There’s Always a Plan B

Events have occurred so we can answer the question Thomas Friedman wrote some time back. (I don’t have the date or a link to it since it is behind the NYTimes wall and I cannot find it at their site or in the land of Google.) Anyway, Friedman asked is Iraq like it is because Saddam was like he was, or was Saddam like he was because Iraq is like it is? (Don’t you just love a good turn of phase? Like a fine wine or delicious first bite, you want to just savor it, roll it over in your mind, and appreciate its message and construction.) This eloquently constructed question deserves an equal response in the spirit or least construction of the question’s beauty, but instead it gets the following:

When Iraq went bad – shortly after the take over or the goal of the short sighted – the Neocons showed they had no Plan B. Plan A was that democracy would take care of its self; there was no need for a Plan B. The Neocons must have believed the virtue and moral fiber they saw within themselves as deriving from freedom and democracy would see democracy through in Iraq.

What the Neocons don’t realize is that there’s always a Plan B. In a Worse Case Scenario planners who have no fall back plan must respond as events occur. That's your Plan B if you don't have one. I hope that is not the Neocons plan but I’m afraid it is. However, President Bush need not worry about this in his legacy. His lack of having a Plan B for Iraq will not be high on his list of mistakes.

The Neocons realizes their strategy to fixate on names such as the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Zarqawi, and his final removal, a goal they have harped on for years, meant nothing. The killings and sectarian violence go on even more than before. To admit civil war is to admit defeat and they can’t do that, because they have no Plan B.

The recent unpleasantness with Lebanon, Hezbollah, and of course, Israel moved Iraq civil war off the front pages for several days. Throw in another clash between Hamas, Fatah, the Palestinians referendum on Israel’s right to exist, and of course, Israel, and you got one major distraction. It has taken the heat off the Iraqi story, but of course the situation in Iraq continues to fester. And we’re talking a fester that could spread to the whole of the Middle East

Add to that the Neocons inability to recognize when they are facing the same hitch hiking problem as LBJ (at the bottom of the post) or that they are staring at Powell’s ominous forewarning of ownership of Pottery Barn chards. However, they are claiming the vessel is still whole. You don’t have to fix what’s not broken. They miss the point that they now own it regardless of whether it is broken or not.

The Neocons fail to recognize the open-ended equation of war – especially a war lasting longer than a year. Rarely does a war lasting longer than a year end up as the planners had originally envisioned. Of course, they thought Iraq would be a peaceful, economically viable, politically influential democracy by now. And as David Halberstam wrote in “The Best and Brightest”, war is a government policy, and once a policy of this size develops, it takes on a life of its own and even those that implemented it no longer control it.

Now, others are talking about dividing Iraq along lines of sectarian concentration. Groups are already concentrating in a mass internal migration. Groups within Iraq and those without who have an interest in the eventual outcome should already have their plan as to where the lines will be drawn – and a good Plan B, also. There’s all the oil, remember. Baghdad will most likely be partitioned. With no Plan B, things occur in their own time; the Neocon planners have lost their initiative and must response to events.

And if the people of Iraq can throw off the old identity given to them by the British and declare they are Shia or Sunni or Kurd, that they are Arab or Persian; and they want their country to reflect what they are (and who among us would not want that), so too, others in the Middle East can feel they are justified in throwing off the remnants of colonialism. The old order of families ruling countries may be jeopardized. The Neocons had hoped to start the spread of democracy from Iraq; however, they may have started the spread of something totally else.

We are all going to need a Plan B.