Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Small War of Peace

It looks like the US backed Somali government and the Ethiopian military are making a final push against the Union of Islamic Courts. I just hope that the US sends in some military advisers, USAID, various aid agencies and some much needed cash to the Somalia government in order to prevent Somalia from falling into chaos or into the hands of Al Qaeda's allies much like it did in from the mid 90's to today. Folks might scoff at us getting mixed up with the "crazies" in Somalia yet again after what happened in 1993 but in the long run some it sure beats having a haven for Al Qaeda terrorists. I you remember Cold War history, then you know that the fight against Islamic terrorism will be mostly fought in Third World countries in the far reaches of the World. Now call me silly but I truly believe the adage of "fighting them there rather than here" is spot on with regards to our fight against Islamic terrorism. See here, here, and here for more on the current fighting in Somalia.

*For more on how the US can fight these small wars on Islamic terrorism, check out Robert Kaplan's book Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground.

I found an interesting post over at the Claremont Institute's blog The Remedy that gives some great praise to the Ethiopian military routing the Union of Islamic Courts out of their strongholds in Somalia. Take a look:

Since about June of this year, the West has been wringing its hands over what to do about the bin Ladenist take-over of Somalia. Ethiopia knew what to do and had its own six-day war. Here's how the Washington Post puts it today:

Islamic fighters who for six months had enforced a rigid moral code in Mogadishu disappeared, some simply shaving their long beards and vanishing into neighborhoods, witnesses said. "We have been defeated. I have removed my uniform. Most of my comrades have also changed into civilian clothes," one former Islamic fighter told the Reuters news agency. "Most of our leaders have fled."

One more 'graph from the Post: It was clear Thursday night that the complex political dynamics in Mogadishu, and Somalia in general, had been completely reordered by the swift, potent military action by Ethiopia. Its tanks, jets and attack helicopters routed loosely organized Islamic militia units that were armed with little more than rifles and pickup trucks with mounted machine guns.

Of those Islamist leaders now fleeing, Ethiopian leaders say, according to the New York Times report: "the government plans to hunt them down."

Michael Ledeen said on Bill Bennett's radio show this a.m. that this proves yet again, when you fight hard against Islamists, they will crumble--you've just got to allow the fight. Our side is often prepared (we know our military is, obviously the Ethiopians were), Ledeen says, they just trust in Allah and don't think they need to prepare. A version of Semper Fi versus Semper Allah.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned here. But in the meantime, bring in the Prime Minister of Ethiopia (Meles Zenawi), give him a medal of freedom. Then send the Ethiopians to Iraq and Afghanistan. Send 'em to Thailand and Iran. And then anywhere else Osama bin Laden calls his fighters to take over.

Now while the Ethiopian army and the Somali government are a long way in completely wiping the Islamists in Somalia but it looks a heck of all lot better than what the UN or other nations in the region have offered up in dealing with Somalia. So I applaud the Ethiopians for a good weeks work and hope Somalia's government does something positive with this helping hand. Expect some movement on behalf of the US.

Holding Back the Barbarians

Here's a great piece by Toronto Sun columnist Salim Mansur which aptly describes the enemy we face in our current global War on Islamic Terror and how this is truly a fight for Western Civilization. I think he hits the nail dead on the head when wrote the following passage:

The current enemy is the outcrop of a broken civilization of the past, spewing forth from its rotting bowels an endless horde of militants and fellow-travellers, carrying with them the most atavistic ideas about faith and politics that modern civilization, which Bush represents, hesitates to name for what it is.

We have to go back to the declining years of the Roman Empire to find a parallel with our times. Rome had spread civilization far and wide around the Mediterranean basin, but over time it became besieged by barbarians from outside its frontiers and then from within.

Civilization is more supple, hence fragile, than the iron and steel from which it is built. It might be likened to a garden, delicately laid out and carefully maintained.

When ignored or unattended, weeds destroy what human artifice builds with much labour.

Over time, people take their civilization for granted, become careless and unwilling to bear the burden of protecting it. Then its defences are breached, as Rome was, and the city is overrun by those who envy or loathe civilization, bringing ruin in their wake.

Radical Islamism and Islamist terrorism have already made a wasteland of the greater Middle East. Where once a great Islamic civilization prevailed, now, in its place, there so often thrives a culture of bigotry and tribal violence, with their effects spreading outwards across land and sea.

Rome did not know how to defeat the barbarians before they overran her. Those who endlessly fault Bush for the shape of the world visible since 9/11, will one day cry a river if he and his successors fail to save civilization from its present-day enemies.

Michael Novak, a Catholic theologian and philosopher, named Bush "the bravest president" for staying firm in confronting the contemporary barbarians, despite the venom of his peers.

In the dark winter nights, some of us will have prayers for Bush, knowing the difference between what he represents and those who would prey upon civilization.

I think if a lot more of our politicians, pundits, and academics would present or war on Islamic terrorism as straight forward as Mansur has written rather than political speak that we hear on TV and read in the newspaper, then we wouldn't have so many people scratching their heads over what we're up against.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Economic Populism on the Campaign Trail

As of late, I've noted that a lot of the folks vying for the Democrat's nomination for President(The same for the GOP's Duncan Hunter) seem to be falling into a populist mindset by pushing things like national healthcare, attacking free trade, large corporations(Wal-Mart), oil companies. What's even worse is the fact that the incoming Congress is talking pretty big on taking on and punishing various Fortune 500 CEOs who make whopping salaries. Now while I couldn't imagine what to do with $10 million or more a year salary, I have to say that it is really wrong for Congress to poke its nose in the tent of public enterprise just because these CEOs had a banner year by doing what they do good in which is making money. When politicians like Edwards and others start talking this populist talk and are able to make these policies law thus punishing folks for being good at their job or corporations making great profits(Remember the "little man" benefits from corporate profits in the form of their 401(k)s, bonuses, opportunity to make overtime and job security) we are in effect setting us up for political suicide. Thankfully, James K. Glassman, senior fellow at AEI and editor-in-chief of The American, has penned a good piece over at USA Today that pretty much sums up why the pay of the CEOs is something to bar or restrict but is on par with what they do and achieve for their employer. Populism might be appealing to the "little man" but in the long run it's disastrous to the American enterprise system and the economy as a whole.

RIP President Gerald Ford

While I was no great fan of the "pastel colors" of moderation and the continued policy of detente with the Soviet Union, I still have to give it up to President Ford's service to this country during such a trying time. Though Ford was not a movement conservative like Ronald Reagan, I can applaud the 38th President for his steadfast determination to cut run-away spending via the veto pen and his devotion to continue funding the South Vietnamese government and providing air support to the military even when the doves in Congress were hell-bent on pulling the plug. Aside from that, I would have to say that the congenial personality of Gerald R. Ford's made him a far greater man and father than what he could have ever achieve as the President of the United States.

*Here's a piece by Gleaves Whitney from National Review Online that is a bit more complimentary to the former Michigan Center/Linebacker.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Winning Strategy

While the MSM and the talking heads in D.C. are fawning all over the ISG report and whether or not Hillary supports sending more troops to Iraq, there are individuals within the military and various think tanks formulating sound policies that will provide us a lasting victory in the "land of two rivers." One individual who has hacked through the beltway buzz is Jack Kelly, a foreign policy columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who notes in his most recent column about the most promising solution to Iraq is a policy laid out by General Jack Keane and Frederick Kagan which calls for the US to send a larger contingent of soldiers into Iraq in an effort to take control of the security situation(while being supplemented with economic and political tools) thus creating an environment more conducive towards order. In fact, out of all the plans being tossed around the salons and amongst the people in power in D.C., the Kean/Kagan proposal seems to be one that will create a more viable solution to achieving victory in Iraq than what the blue-ribbon ISG has submitted. Here's hoping the White House leans more in the direction of Keane and Kagan rather than the ISG. After reading several pieces about how the President is seriously thinking about sending more troops to Iraq, I think Keane and Kagan's policy recommendations seem to be gaining some wind in its sails.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Straight Skinny on the ISG

Here's a good by Daniel Pipes in the Jerusalem Post that aptly sums up why the Iraqi Survey Group's recommendations isn't a solution that will make Iraq better or take the burden off President Bush. I think Pipes put it best when he noted the following:
OF COURSE, small minds assert that problems in Iraq are "inextricably linked" to the Arab-Israeli conflict - thereby repeating the precise mistake that lead co-chairman James A. Baker, III, made in 1991. He then led the effort to abandon the Persian Gulf and turn to the Palestinians, leaving Saddam Hussein in power for another dozen years and contributing directly to the present mess. In the new report, Baker and his colleagues call for a Palestinian state (#12) and even demand that a final settlement address the Palestinian "right of return" (#17) - code for dismantling the Jewish state. They peremptorily declare that "the Israelis should return the Golan Heights," in return for a US security guarantee (#16).

Besides the astonishing conceit of these Olympian declarations, one wonders how exactly the Iraqi civil war would be ended by pleasing Palestinians. Or why the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict is any more relevant to Iraq than the unresolved Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, which is closer to Iraq.

To make matters worse, Baker had the nerve to admonish the Bush administration not to treat the report's 79 recommendations "like a fruit salad," choosing one idea while rejecting another, but to accept it as a whole. Even in Washington, a town famous for arrogance, this statement made heads turn. That Baker and his co-chairman sat for a picture spread with famed photographer Annie Liebovitz for Men's Vogue, a fashion magazine, only confirms the vacuity of their effort, as does their hiring the giant public relations firm, Edelman.

In all, the Iraq Study Group Report offers a unique combination of bureaucratic caution, false bi-partisanship, trite analysis, and conventional bromides.
From what I've seen in the President's remarks since the release of the ISG's recommendations and the fact that other study groups are being conducted in the Pentagon, State and the National Security Council, I'm betting wiser heads will prevail and that the more than silly recommendations(Israeli/Palestinian negotiations, talking to Iran and Syria, putting Iran's nuke questing solely in the hands of the UN Security Council) will fall to the wayside for a solution that is more Iraqi centered rather than a "go nice with the neighbors" solution offered by the ISG.

*Check out Jay Ambrose's thoughts on the ISG in his most recent commentary in the Washington Examiner.

Currency Manipulation Not The Solution

For a good while now, I've been hearing and reading reams of reports from pundits, politicians and journalist about how the Chinese undervalue their currency thus keeping our currency weak and thus running up our trade deficit. To add insult to injury these individuals keep on jumping up and down about how the Chinese have got to "re-evaluate" their currency to make our dollar stronger and possibly reduce our trade deficit(People tend to forget that Americans have so much disposable income that they're able to buy so many goods from China and elsewhere.). N0w while these individuals might be lauded as "dollar patriots" by domestic manufactures, labor unions they are just pushing for the imposition of trade barriers of tariffs that might look good in the short-term but in reality will create greater problems for our economy in the long-run. Someone who seems to understand the cost of pushing through currency tariffs is Thomas Bray of the Detroit News. In his most recent column, Bray points out that while we can find folks to blame for the US economic woes (Japan, China or others) we cannot fall into the trap of economic protectionism to reduce our deficits or improve the value of the dollar but should focus more on growing the economy through the free market and other means that shy away from the "dollar populism" of Pat Buchanan, Chuck Schumer, Lindsey Graham, John Edwards and Lou Dobbs. I think Bray summed this up best when he noted the following:
It's déjà vu all over again. But as the Caldwell example shows, it's never enough. The Japanese yen has more than doubled in value against the dollar, yet Detroit's competitive problems remain severe, perhaps fatal. Bankruptcy has scythed through the automotive industry even as Toyota, Honda and others, to hedge against protectionism, have established strong beachheads inside the American market, mostly in right-to-work states.

And when governments start tinkering with currencies, or are even suspected of doing so, the market is quick to react. Think of the stock market crash of 1987, which followed a public spat between the U.S. Treasury and the German Bundesbank over currency issues. (At that point, the yen was about 150 to the dollar.) Only strong intervention by the new Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan, may have saved us from a new Depression. How good were the 1930s for manufacturing?

The current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, has been getting strong reviews of late. But he may yet be tested in the marketplace, particular if his decision to travel to China at the same time as Treasury Secretary Paulson is perceived as an attempt to strong-arm Beijing into a major currency realignment. The dollar has been declining for weeks, perhaps in expectation of a devaluation of some sort, Paulson's claim that he favors a strong dollar notwithstanding.

With Democrats in charge of Congress, the forces favoring dollar protectionism may be gaining ground. Michigan Democratic Congressman John Dingell, who will chair the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, says he plans to make currency issues a top priority. Translation: there might still be little appetite for old-fashioned trade barriers, such as tariffs, but the premise that the nation's trade deficit - now running at a rate of $229 billion with China alone -- poses a threat to American prosperity will provide plenty of cover for the more subtle poison of dollar protectionism.
I just wished the folks in Congress and within the Treasury Department would pay more attention to the economic wisdom of Bray and stop trying to play a unwise game of economic populism that will hurt us all.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A New Engineering Wonder

Here's an interesting piece in the Christian Science Monitor on how American Superconductor Corp. has developed a new semi-conducter that can generate some 150 times what our current wires can transmit. Its seems to be a welcomed innovation and will be wonders for utility companies, military vehicles(ships, tanks, weapon systems) and future homebuilders.

Reform Radio Farda for Freedom's Sake

Fire of Liberty

With Iran being a big blip on the World's radar with its support of terrorism, manufacturing of ballistic missiles, advancement of its nuclear weapons program and seemingly gaining of a media foothold in the media, I believe that this is the right time to initiate the beginning of the end of the regime via internal change. Aside from providing economic, political and moral support for dissidents, students, worker unions and everyday citizens who are fed up and want an end of, the US can also use the power of the air waves by revamping Radio Farda back to a more news and information station that provides debates and ideas of democracy, culture, religion and other social issues that are forbidden in Iran. One only has to look back at how the dissidents and prisoners within he USSR and in the Soviet sphere gained their freedom due to the fact that they had Radio Free Europe/Radio which motivated and provided them with a forum that allowed them to cast aside the seventy-four year old Soviet monster. Thankfully, S. Enders Wimbush, former director of Radio Liberty(1987-1992) and current senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, has penned a wonderful piece in the Weekly Standard that provides a point by point plan that the US can follow to dissolve the pop radio format of Radio Farda and turn it into a shining voice of freedom much like we did during the Cold War. If a radio station's signal can take down a mighty empire like the Soviets just think what a boost to Radio Farda could do for the folks in Iran. Here's hoping someone at State and the White House have read this fine piece.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

More Outside-the-Box Thinkers Needed On Iraq

Fire of Liberty

I was browsing through the New York Sun and came across this Op/Ed by Nibras Kazimi that lays out some interesting ideas in how the Iraqis can effectively tamper down the insurgency. Here's a sample:
Here are a couple more ideas where improvements can be made:

(1) Punish the insurgents more severely. Presently, there are few punitive measures taken against insurgents and their families. The authorities could impose financial penalties to offset the damage that insurgents inflict on other Iraqis. Once an insurgent is killed or arrested and then charged, authorities could, for example, freeze his assets and sell them at auction. The proceeds could go to a terror victims' fund or to the state treasury to compensate for the losses sustained by public property and services. Furthermore, family members, including women, should be treated as accomplices if they fail to report blatant criminal activity such as the use of homes as bomb-making factories or as detention cells holding abductees. Such arrests of women could be undertaken by the Iraqi police to avoid the stigma that "foreigners are touching up our women." Iraqi law already stipulates that accomplices should be held responsible. The financial and familial price for choosing to be an insurgent must get steeper. The existing consequences are too mild even by Western standards.

(2) Install GPS devices on police and government vehicles. Death squads almost invariably use police cars or government vehicles in carrying out false arrests and abductions. There is a unit selling in America for $600 that pinpoints stolen cars. Why can't we put this device inside every single police and government car? The next time Sunni residents report that policemen have abducted their young men, data can be pulled up to show what police cars were operating in that neighborhood and at that time. If these devices are tampered with or disabled, then this would also become apparent when the data goes off the network. Cars may also have fake police markings, but these can be distinguished from real police cars at checkpoints: If a police car doesn't have a GPS device, then it's a fraud.

There are tens of good ideas out there for winning this war that have not been implemented and have not been debated beyond wonky military journals. It's not the number of American or Iraqi boots on the ground that matters in winning this war but rather the number of microchips used to map out and combat the insurgency. Running patrols and shooting straight is only part of what is necessary in such a modern war. Americans and Iraqis must adapt their strategies to fit the battle before they can win the battle. This hasn't been done in earnest yet, and we need to ask "why?" rather than scream "flee, flee, the sky is falling" in panic.
Now while I doubt that the Iraqi government will fully implement these suggestions but they sure as heck beat the "group think" compromises that some members of Congress, select academics and the ISG have offered up. Maybe the Pentagon should recruit more "outside of the box" thinkers like Nibras Kazimi.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Leaving Iraq by 2008 should be a No-Go

Fire of Liberty

Even if some members of the ISG and various members of Congress are calling for an exit from Iraq by 2008, I think this piece from The Times pretty much sums up why the US can't take up such an action. From what I've read it seems like they're are a lot of folks in Iraq are willing to fight side by side with their American brothers but are scared by the media and the actions in Washington and fear we're heading to the doors and leaving them behind to face a fate far worse than what hit South Vietnam. I just hope the President stands firm and keeps our 140,000 troops in Iraq along with a compliment of the 20,000 trainers and adds an massive inflow of equipment, weapons, and ammo to the fledgling Iraqi army. If we show a true commitment towards helping Iraq defeat the enemy we could pull out an overwhelming victory and have a island of freedom in the midst of a sea of chaos. Here's hoping that the administration achieves these goals for the sake of our fallen soldiers and the people of Iraq.

One Tough Lady At Turtle Bay

Fire of Liberty
Jeane Kirkpatrick

When I think of the UN I tend to think of a body that is corrupt, inept, diplomatic double speak, unable to prevent genocide, fearful of confronting dictators, and generally disdainful of the US and Israel. Now while I tend to be a little stand-offish on anything with a UN stamp on it, I generally can stand its existence if the US has a strong willed ambassador who is willing to promote our ideals and defend us fully by bringing some sense into what Daniel Patrick Moynihan called a "dangerous place." One individual who possessed such a great talent and shined as a defender of this great nation was Jeane Kirkpatrick, who passed away last night. Ambassador Kirkpatrick would prove to be a great compliment to President Reagan as he and the country went toe to toe with the "evil empire". Amongst the many things that I found admirable about this feisty cold-warrior is that she called things as she saw it and could go a few rounds with the individuals at Turtle Bay who looked the other way towards dictatorships and the harshness of the Soviets in various corners of the world. Just think how interesting it would be to have an UN Ambassador who was willing to say the following:
"The U.S. has been getting kicked around a lot lately at the UN, and I just want you to know President Reagan and I think that's wrong. And as long as I'm here, we're not going to be kicked around anymore!"
It's very rare to find a voice of sanity in a madhouse known as Turtle Bay and I doubt we'll ever find another strong willed individuals like Jeane Kirkpatrick to fill such post, especially after watching the shameful way that members of the Senate treated John Bolton. So long live Jeane Kirkpatrick and the ideas she espoused.

*If you like to read more on the great career and works of Jeane Kirkpatrick see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Shine On Lady Liberty

Fire of Liberty

For a good while now I've been reading and hearing a lot of folks on both political spectrums, amongst the talking heads and the foreign policy mandarins about how we should cleft to the shores of "realism" and return to the ways of olde and be more willing to "listen" to our friends and be more "engaged" with the our enemies. Thankfully Robert Kagan(Author of Dangerous Nation) has a wonderful op/ed in the Financial Times that tends to pour some cold water on the "realist" foreign policy and demonstrates how the proactive nature of the US military is a force of good. One can only imagine what the world would had been like if the US had failed to be the champions of liberty during WWII and the Cold War. Maybe a lot more people will take a double take on this current embrace of foreign policy realism and realize that we have a long history of extending what Thomas Jefferson called the "empire of liberty" throughout the world.

*Also check out Max Boot's The Savage Wars of Peace, H.W. Crocker III's Don't Tread On Me, Mark Steyn America Alone, and Bill Bennett's America: The Last Best Hope.