Friday, September 05, 2003
Given the difficulties we are having in Iraq, the French are finding it hard to suppress their glee. Of course, a lot of this schadenfreude comes from the fact that the French are believing all too much of what they read in the Continental papers. The French government was against our invasion of Iraq because they had a comfortable and profitable relationship with Saddam's regime. Indeed, France's largest oil concern, TOTAL FINA/Elf, had signed a fat contract with the regime. My suspicion is that there was more than enough kickback money to go around and line the pockets of Continental leaders. I believe that the Iraqis had bought any number of European influence peddlers and decisionmakers.
However, the French may be feeling a bit left out in the cold, and very soon. It appears that Vladimir Putin has decided to let bygones be bygones and has voiced support for the American effort to put together a UN force for Iraq. I don't believe that the French will want to be seen as the turd in the punchbowl. Whatever hope they have of retaining their influence in that country will wane as the Russians, and Russian oil barons, step into the vacuum created by Chirac's obtuseness. Indeed, look for the French to find a way to sign on within the next week or two.
This all begs the question of why we need the U.N. in the first place. The reasoning is rather simple. We had been negotiating for a big Indian presence in the country. It was seen as necessary to get a Bandung Conference country to add some heft to the occupation. Indeed, the Americans wanted to get the Pakistanis involved, as well. How and ever, both nations need the fig leaf of a Security Council Resolution to provide the patina of legitimacy to an American operation. The fact that the Russians appear ready to deal should accelerate the process, however.
But there is an even more compelling reason. Successful as our occupation has been, there is a greater need to free up American troops for hunter group activity. Americans are stretched thin on the ground in Iraq. They move about in convoy, and a convoy is RPG bait. The Americans want to give the safe areas to the Indians, the Pakistanis, and the Turks so they can concentrate on flooding the zone in the Sunni heartland.
Is this a change in strategy? Sure. But it is the nimble quarterback who can audible during a drive.
What matters is whether the game is won; no one will remember if you called a halfback option or a post pattern.
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
With the passing of al-Hakim, and the agitation in some quarters of Iraqi Shi'a society against the Americans, I thought that this Leader from today's Times of London is a strategic analysis of where we stand politically. I was not able to get a hard connection to the Times itself, but it was reposted on FreeRepublic.com. It is definitely worth a read.
I find myself in great sympathy with the opinions of the Times editorial staff, which I find to be a rather refreshing contrast to its cousin, the New York Times. Unlike most of the media, the editors indicate that it is not in any conceivable Shi'a interest to drive the Americans out. However, what is coming will be an arrangement not unlike what is happening in Iraqi Kurdistan, where the locals run their own affairs and have a militia, the Peshmergha. The paper also properly discounts much of the Pentagon vs. State conflict that is going on here in the states, emphasizing a difference in emphasis rather than a difference in grand strategy.
Must to bed. Enjoy the war.
Monday, September 01, 2003
Cruz Bustamante comes in for some criticism from the same columnist, who criticizes the Lt. Governor for pandering to the Mexican vote by attacking Schwarzenegger for spreading division (something that Arnold simply hasn't done). This column is farther down the page, beneath his admonitions towards Arnold's campaign. Another good read from Weintraub, today, folks.
Meanwhile, the California State Republican Convention is coming up in Los Angeles. Rick Orlov in today's Daily News pens this column detailing the excitement surrounding the usually staid affair. Both Arnold Schwarzenegger and State Senator Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) are scheduled to address the gathering. McClintock swears he is in to stay. I think he is in to stay until at least after the Convention. McClintock is inflicting some pain on Arnold right now, freezing conservative voters in place until he can go to Arnold and start bargaining. McClintock doesn't want to be the turd in the punchbowl by staying in past the point where he would do little more than draw enough votes from Arnold to allow Bustamante to sneak in. There is a reason the liberal talking heads are pointing out how conservative Tom is and how Arnold shares little in common with the senator. There's also a reason most of Tom's colleagues in the State Assembly are getting on Arnold's bandwagon. They want a Republican Governor. The assemblymen and state senators don't want to be on the outside looking in.
My take is that McClintock starts sending feelers to Schwarzenegger between the convention and the big debate in the third week of this month. If Arnold can go into the debate with a united front, then he wins the election. That's my suspicion, anyway.
Meanwhile, the burial of Ayatollah al-Hakim is being readied. Several hundred thousand Iraqis are converging on al-Najaf. Coalition troops are gathering water and emergency medical supplies for the expected throng.
In Afghanistan, Al Jazeera reports that U.S. Special Forces and Afghan regulars have upwards to a thousand Talib surrounded. Mullah Omar may be among the Taliban occupying the villiage of Sarang, three hundred miles southwest of Kabul. Now I take these numbers with a grain of salt, as I'd be very surprised if the Taliban allowed themselves to be penned up like that. However, there may be a large number of Taliban present if command personnel are with them. Air strikes are continuing as I write this.
Sunday, August 31, 2003
We're losing one or two American soldiers every day. Saddam and Osama are still lurking and scheming � the "darkness which may be felt."
After a car bomb exploded outside a Najaf mosque on Friday, killing scores of people, including the most prominent pro-American Shiite cleric, we may have to interject our troops into an internecine Shiite dispute � which Saddam's Baathist guerrillas are no doubt stoking.
With Iraqis in Najaf screaming, "There is no order! There is no government! We'd rather have Saddam than this!," we had one more ominous illustration that the Bush team is out of its depth and divided against itself.
You know, folks, I never ceased to be amazed that the New York Times actually pays this woman to write. Calling al-Hakim a "pro-American" cleric is not just stupidity, but reveals Dowd's passing understanding of the issue at hand. This is a person who actually believes what she sees on CNN or the CBS Evening News. That's just damn unforgivable. It's almost as bad as a six-pack of Billy Beer.
Mo ain't quite this bad...
Indeed, television outtakes showed Iraqis swearing revenge and carrying signs denouncing the "Ba'athist Criminals". Yes, they were upset with the Americans for allowing this to happen on our watch, but every story I have read in the aftermath of the Al-Hakim assassination indicates that the Iraqi Shi'as are not only angry with the Ba'athists, but are violently angry with the Wahabist infiltrators who pulled this crime off. Now, in the aftermath of the affair, Iraqis and Americans are looking to reform the army and police to allow the Iraqis to go after the local jihadi (something that should have been done months ago...). This will allow Americans to recede into the background and pull heavy units out of the major cities and out into the sticks. There, they become less vulnerable to ambush and able to act more like infantry. As a result, the Iraqi government will gain more credibility. Our casualties, such as the are, will go down. And the prospects for President Bush's reelection will go up.
Which is what Dowd is really upset about, by the way. I wouldn't want anyone to think that this stylist gives a rat's fingernail about a bunch of dead Iraqis.
Dowd, by the way, declares that Karl Rove "must be getting nervous". God I hate clairvoyants.
Meanwhile, Matt Drudge has a story about Arnold making some untoward remarks about Africans driving South Africa into the ground once they took it over (which they did). It's up there with bell's on at Drudge's page. By the way, given the fact that it is one of Drudge's teaser headlines, I doubt it will be up front with Second Coming Type by the time you read this. Meanwhile, Dan Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee has another excellent column that tends to confirm my suspicions that the California Recall election is about something far greater than a Vast Buffalo Wing Conspiracy or even Gray or Arnold.
One of the things that I don't think is understood by us folks back east is just how misgoverned that state has been. A lot of assumptions were made by the Davis Regime back in the Dot Com days, and they turned out to have become as ash in the mouth. Californians as a whole are not ones to easily flock to a recall. Something about Davis has made most of the voters in that state rather upset. But it is a larger unease which is driving the Davis recall, and I strongly suspect that the state Democratic Party has no idea what it is really dealing with. It's always much more comfortable, and intellectually less challenging, to spin the conspiracy yarn.
The citizens want their California back. I'm not sure that either party has figured that out.
Finally, our old friend Kim Jong Il has broken off negotiations. I'm not sure that the young man has realized that the Chinese and the Russians have put a lot of stock in this negotiation's success. The North Koreans are jumping up and down, swearing that they will test a weapon "any day now" and already have ICBM's capable or reaching the West Coast.
I always make it my practice to conclude that the man who speaks too much or brags too loudly is the man who is holding a very, very weak hand.
Our alternatives aren't pleasant, as the logical conclusion of America's demands leads to a war with Korea, but there you have it. The five powers who buffaloed North Korea to the table now have to sit through an interminable circus as Kim plays musical chairs with the issue.
Time to stop the music.