Friday, January 26, 2007

We cannot win a war of attrition in the Middle East. - Hagel

Why are we fighting a war of attrition in the Middle East? Perhaps because the bastards want to grind us down.

Chuck Hagel is getting a lot of press right now for speaking the obvious to the oblivious; in this case Condi Rice who's academic credentials are more than adequate for her to have come to the same conclusion. There are many, MANY reasons why we cannot get to what she would like to what she and the rest of the Bushites would like to call "victory," but this is the most fundamental. To quote Andrew Jackson - also a Commander in Chief in his day - battles (and hence, wars) are won by "who gets thar fustest with the mostest."

We succeeded spectacularly in the first phase of the war because we did that. We proceeded to lose from that point on because we no longer had control of the field of battle - which was NOT, repeat, NOT primarily one that could be controlled with force. In the battle of hearts and minds, we got our asses kicked by violating the primary dictum of both war and peace - KNOW your enemy and why they are fighting. The problem - as Dr. Rice could easily explain, if she were speaking of ANY other situation than one she helped create - is that recognizing the reality and addressing it effectively would have required two things that were politically impossible - an admission of the real strategic goals and rationale for the war, AND reassessing the foundational geo-political principles it was intended to forward - as outlined in "Project for a New American Century's" "Rebuilding America's Defenses"

One of the key assumptions was that it would be easy to topple regimes in areas of critical American interest and that that would liberate an expression of massive popular support for our benevolent oversight into an "American style" democratic nation aligned with us and sharing strong social, diplomatic and economic ties.

It is relatively easy, given our military and economic clout, to topple a regime or cripple a nation. When it's served our interest, we have done both, though I would argue that such examples as Chile and Iran have created long term problems larger than any short-term advantage we may have gained. Our attempts to intervene in domestic affairs of other nations do not always work so well in the short term. Our tendency to pick the interests of the big guy over the little guy has started to backfire more and more, and is increasingly turned against us by leaders such as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Propaganda is far more powerful when it's foundation is set firmly in the concrete of personal experience and easily verified truths. It may be possible to "spin" gold from straw - and Tony Snow seems to be able to spin fairy-gold from air - but if you already have some gold and a great deal of straw - one can clothe one's chosen political metaphors quite regally.

That is all the motivation needed to come up with lots more people to shoot at us than we can ever kill. That situation in Baghdad is what Sen. Hagel means when he speaks of "attritional warfare." While an American trooper is easily worth ten Iraqis on any battlefield of our choosing, we have chosen instead to fight on their home turf; in an urban environment. Generously, that cuts our advantage in manpower in half, while at least doubling theirs. And even if it did not, they have not just ten, but ten more, and ten more after that. We do not.

Worse than that, we've created conditions where most would prefer to die fighting than be captured. We are operating in a situation even more hostile than the Warsaw Ghetto, against a variety of well-armed militias, former military and paramilitaries with apparently copious and secure lines of supply. It's a situation that even a French general would never consider entering in the first place, but the President still seems to think we can "win."

We have given our enemies EVERY advantage against us in the war of hearts and minds, we have allowed them to maintain their lines of communication and supply and allowed them to choose the battleground. Meanwhile, we have bombed civilians, killed civilians wholesale at checkpoints, tortured civilians and in the process of a doing all this, completely wrecked the civilian infrastructure - giving lots more people the time and motivation to explore Humvee hunting as a recreational activity. The fact that it's easier to find explosives than a job or an intact classroom with a working toilet has got to be a factor in this.

In the process, we have lost all diplomatic, military and moral credibility, and that is why we have lost this war, and will lose in further adventures in third world babysitting we might have had in mind, because our greatest enemy is, well, us.

And by "us," I do not mean Chuck Hegel, who's simply speaking the truth to someone who hates hearing it as much as George W. Bush. I mean we have handed victory to anyone we choose to oppose militarily or diplomatically on a platter, and this situation will continue until we remember that "we", the American people, are morally and ethically accountable for what is done in our names.

Winning the war on terror begins at home. Stop being terrified, and start prosecuting those who have been jerking our chains for six years. START listening to people - like Hegel, and Gore, and Murtha, who really know what they are talking about. It may feel nicer and more secure to have smoke blown up your ass, but in order to enjoy that warm and friendly sensation, you have to drop your pants - and that makes it real easy to pick your pocket and screw you over.

This "war on terror" has been prosecuted in such a way as to ensure failure from the first. What if that is the goal?

If you pick any single administrative decision point from 9/11 on, you will find the wrong thing being done from any expert perspective, starting with the decision to go in with light forces who were unequipped for an urban battlefield. Even then, had we the sense to withdraw from the urban areas and establish secure nodes, we could have effectively secured and controlled the countryside - and interdicted terrorist and insurgent lines of supply - while allowing Iraqis to secure the urban environment, offering air support and intelligence. Baghdad is vital to Iraq and Iraqis - but it was no part of OUR command and control. Any competent military commander would advise against engaging in urban warfare given ANY viable alternative - and the above is a bog-standard, off the shelf "viable alternative."

I'm wondering aloud here if the administration's strategy is to maximize casualties and termination of service within the civilian forces, particularly among the front line Guards and Reserve officer corps. Because that's the effect.

That's simply one example. Another disastrous example is composed of the unholy policies represented by Gitmo, Abu Gahrab and the spirited defense of torture from the very highest levels of our administration. This broad policy was established from the Oval Office against extensive advice from real world experts that it was counterproductive, that it would not produce usable intelligence and that it would provide enormous motivation to opposition forces, once the truth got out - as it inevitably would.

Or, let us look at the rational responses to 9/11. KNOWING that Osama Bin Ladin was almost certainly involved, would you as a rational individual, not want to ask a few questions of the Bin Ladin family members who happened to be in the United States at the time? I sure would. The FBI sure did. Instead, they were whisked out of US jurisdiction with clearance from the highest levels. That makes me intensely interested in what they might have had to say, particularly the close, even intimate contacts and entanglements the President has with the Bin Ladin family in particular and the Saudi Royals in general.

It's standard operating procedure when examining a crime to preserve the critical evidence, at least until it's examined. Instead - hundreds of tons (representing millions of dollars in salvage value) were dumped at sea without any in-depth structural analysis.

There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of such decisions that make absolutely no sense at all from the perspective of an administration acting to protect our national interests and personal security. They are not consistent with mere incompetence, nor does stupidity does not account for being so consistently wrong and so consistent in the frustration of any effort to do the correct thing in a presumed climate of enhanced terrorist activity. One only has to point to the Administration effort to turn over our ports to a Dubai firm to show a disconnect between the supposed situation and the administration's policy.

Furthermore, whatever you or I might wish to believe, with the possible exception of the titualar head of government, the Whige House is NOT staffed by the ignorant or the unintelligent. Notably, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz et al, these are the very sharpest crayons picked from a box of sharp crayons. In other words, almost nobody there is stupid enough to have allowed these things to come to pass by accident, and when things came to pass due to incompetence, it was because very smart people put incompetant but obediant people in positions of power. Let us do them the courtesy of assuming they knew PRECISELY what they were doing, and that the outcome was fairly much within the range of their expectations, such as the depopulation and diaspora of the former black citizens of New Orleans and the Gulf coast. New Orleans is essentially depopulated and available for development. "Heckuva job, Brownie."

There is a military dictum that should be quoted here: "Once is happenstance, twice coincidence; three times is enemy action."

We have far more than three examples of administration decisions that go completely counter to any reasonable, constitutional action in support of our national interest and national security, from even the most rabidly conservative perspective. I might add that I'm using only well-known, very questionable examples.

The net effect of six years of misrule has been a widespread attack on the middle class, a degradation of individual civil liberties, innumerable subversions and attempts to subvert the constitution, the erosion of the military - and particularly the military capabilities of the individual States. Furthermore, the President has tried to assert personal authority over the various state Guards units, historically the prerogative of the various Governors.

Little of this makes any great sense if aimed at an external threat. It makes a great deal of sense if it's aimed at you and me.

We should start investigating the possibility that a person or persons within the White House are acting as agents of a foreign power or, a concentration of powers who have deep interests in control, power, oil, and lack of oversight by a well-informed, well-armed and vigilant citizenry.

Actually, I suggest we need not wait to wonder too deeply about why, or indeed precisely who. When you are clearly being shot at, you don't argue about the caliber of the weapon or the motives of the shooter. First you duck, then you return fire. Those are the essentials; the rest is for the after-action report, and after-action reports are written by the survivors.

I suggest to all US citizens to re-familiarize themselves with the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If you feel that your interests and your honor lie with defending it, I hope that you will do as I have done today, and reaffirm my wholehearted commitment to "Uphold and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

[Update - if you haven't read Glenn Greenwald yet, do so right now] He's closely paralleling many of my points - and we failed completely to collude this month.

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