After travel, I am catching up on my NY Times reading and discovered that someone left the editorial keyboard unguarded at the NY Times and a miscreant wrote a budget cutting list for the U.S. military. (Editorial, December 20).
I find myself irritated when pseudo knowledge is mixed with decent thinking. The vision in this editorial is to bolster our land forces by shifting funds out of sexy and/or unneeded Air Force and Navy programs. There is a kernel of good in this tome, as it points out the serious imbalance in our land forces investment. Alas, much of the list of cuts (and why these cuts) comes from some ideological cloud formation that isn’t in the METARS training I received in private pilot school. The correct information is available with a little journalistic work and subscriptions to Aviation Week and Jane’s. To have the Times slip to this level of sloppiness is simply disgusting.
For the sake of brevity, one tawdry example, on the production of the F-22 Raptor.
The Times writes:
End production of the Air Force’s F-22. The F-22 was designed to ensure victory in air-to-air dogfights with the kind of futuristic fighters that the Soviet Union did not last long enough to build. The Air Force should instead rely on its version of the new high-performance F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which comes into production in 2012 and like the F-22 uses stealth technology to elude enemy radar.
Until then, it can use upgraded versions of the F-16, which can outperform anything now flown by any potential foe. The F-35 will provide a still larger margin of superiority. The net annual savings: about $3 billion.
I am heartily tired of said unwashed repeating that a system was designed for the Cold War and that this simple mantra is proof that a system is gold plated, overly complicated and complete overkill for our needs. Let’s deal with some ugly facts.
The F-22 is expensive but has superior stealth to the F-35. Its major flaw is that it took a decade of development to get it into the war fighter’s hands. What was a leap forward avionics package is now only a middling improvement, compared to the F-35. The processor speeds on the F-35 are miles ahead, and its AESA radar performance will be as well. The F-22 already verges on obsolescence in that phase. And I shudder to think of the cost of updating the avionics in the Raptor and how long that might take. The fact is, ultimately, it just doesn’t carry enough ordnance. It will have to be mixed into packages of other missile carrying aircraft, stealthy or not, who can rely on it to front the strike package and use linkage to identify and target. But it has range, more than planned for the F-35. It is a force multiplier. The continuing production decision is complicated but sure as hell not worthy of being decided by the vapidness fronted by this editorial.
Our intrepid editors also confidently inform us that the early 70’s, non-stealthy F-16 is superior to any other airplane flown by our enemies and should be continued to be acquired. I suspect the miscreant/editors haven’t thought about the AESA radars being used by Russian or Chinese aircraft with very effective long range air to air missiles or the threat of double digit Russian SAMs that have 150 mile plus ranges. Or that said planes and missiles are cheerfully and assiduously exported. The list of friendly folks who have acquired advanced Sukhoi aircraft and SAMs include Venezuela and Indonesia. And, India's SU's, participating in Red Flag training, show some superior abilities to our F-15Cs.
The ultimate intellectual bankruptcy of the editor shows up in this final fact. The F-16 is used almost exclusively in air to ground roles and the F-22 is a pure air superiority fighter. Its fourth generation counterpart is the F-15. They couldn’t even get that right.
I want to believe that the amount of fact checking I have to do when reading the Times is somewhat nominal, so I can deal with the ideological differences when reading. I have been abused of that notion. Fool me once….
"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the current, aerial phase of the operation was just "the first of several" that have been approved, an Olmert spokesman said.
But after four days of airstrikes against the symbols of Hamas power,there are few targets left beyond buildings evacuated days ago. On Tuesday, the biggest bomb load yet struck an empty Hamas government complex, as well as security installations and the home of a top militant commander.
Three Palestinians were reported killed Tuesday, compared to dozens in previous days. Since the offensive began Saturday, 368 Palestinians have been killed. More than 1,700 have been hurt, according to Gaza health officials.
Palestinian militants, meanwhile, kept up their rocket assaults on Israeli border communities, despite relentless Israeli air attacks against Gaza's Hamas rulers and unwelcome word from Egypt that it would not bail them out by ending its own blockade of Gaza crossings.
The question hanging over the Israeli operation is how it can halt rocket fire. Israel has never found a military solution to the barrage of missiles militants have fired into southern Israel.
Beyond delivering Hamas a deep blow and protecting border communities, the assault's broader objectives remained cloudy. Israeli President Shimon Peres acknowledged the challenge, saying the operation was unavoidable but more difficult than many people anticipated." Yahoo News
"More difficult than many people anticipated." Say what? More difficult than anticipated by IDF General Staff Intelligence? If that is so, then things have really gone to hell in a hand basket in the Qirya. You used to do better work. Maybe it is the politicians who have imposed this "goat rope" on the IDF. Maybe.
Remember Lebanon in '06. We all really know how well that went for the IDF (irony alert). In the Lebanon case the air power crowd succeeded in persuading the Israeli government that the Lebanese (in general) could be intimidated into accommodating the Likud/neocon/Bush program for Lebanon. That failed in spite of devastating air attacks on civilian infrastructure targets the length and breath of the country. Then, there was a half hearted air/ground effort to destroy Hizbullah's forward positions and rocket firing capability. That proved impossible to do at any price that Israel was willing to pay. The net result was that Hizbullah became an exemplar for every Muslim enemy of Israel, an example of how the IDF can be defeated by brave and well prepared men. Politically, the ultimate result of '06 was to make Hizbullah, and their Christian allies under General Aoun, the arbiters of events in Lebanon.
We have now seen the Israelis run through their target list in Gaza. Hamas is still firing at Ashkalon and Beersheba. One wonders just who has who by the testicles in this situation. If the Israelis back away with some sort of unilateral ceasefire, then the '06 judgment of the Muslims on them will be confirmed in many minds. Thus far there are not enough ground troops "showing" in what the Israelis have brought to Gaza. These deployments are a mere threat. They will have to call forward many more units before the threat of a major ground operation becomes credible.
A major ground operation in Gaza may cause Hizbullah to resume hostilities from north of the Litani. This should be considered as a risk inherent in a ground operation in Gaza.
Muslim militiamen of the Hizbullah, Hamas, Jeish al-Mahdi, etc. varieties have a major advantage in fighting the Israelis. These Muslim fighters all believe in an afterlife in which they will be rewarded for their shihada, their testimony, their martyrdom in what they believe to be the path of God. If you do not think that they believe that, then you are truly clueless. There are not many Israeli Jewish soldiers who think the same thing. Some, but not many. This makes for a wildly disparate attitude towards casualties. In Lebanon the Hizbullahis wore body armor and dug in well. They did that because these men were valuable assets, not because they were not willing to "be all they could be."
"More difficult than many people anticipated." Really? Were Feith and Wolfowitz involved in the planning? pl
"According to Israeli officials, Hamas has smuggled 70 tons of high explosives into Gaza since it violently wrested control of the territory from Abbas' Fatah faction in June. Hamas also has at least 15,000 full-time guerrillas, many of them trained in Iran and Syria.
Israel's army does not want Hamas to acquire the capabilities Hezbollah demonstrated in Lebanon during the summer war in 2006. IDF officials say they cannot wait until Hamas has built up defenses along the Gaza frontier that would make an invasion unbearably costly in terms of Israeli casualties.
"Hamas is trying to entrench itself along the Gaza Strip border fence," Brig. Gen. Moshe Tamir, a senior commander of Israel's forces outside Gaza, told journalists recently. "They're digging tunnels beneath, building bunkers, establishing mortar nests, observation posts and escape routes."
Amos Harel of the Ha'aretz daily said Israel feels its natural tactical superiority being eroded by the asymmetrical fighting with Hamas.
"Until recently, it was obvious who was winning this confrontation. The Israel Defense Force has an enormous advantage in terms of firepower, observation, control of the air, armored vehicles and troop training," Harel said. "But in recent months, the efforts by Iran and Hezbollah to improve Hamas' military capabilities are beginning to be felt. It is not only better weaponry, but also careful study of the lessons of the Second Lebanon War." Jewish Arizona
I suspected that it might be true that Hamas forces have been preparting to fight a Hizbullah style positional battle against the IDF. If that is the case then there is a military reason why the IDF has chosen to go forward now rather than later with an offensive against Gaza. There is also a military reason why Hamas might welcome such an engagement.
An atttritional battle of the kind fought in Lebanon in '06 would be greatly to the disadvantage of the IDF.
- How much has Hamas accomplished in preparations?
I know. They have some other name for this one. Yes. The Palestinians are idiots for firing rockets into Israel. The Israelis want revenge. I understand that, but this seems a bit excessive.
Gaza is a small, very populated place. Anyone who has been there knows that you can't throw a lot of air ordnance into Gaza without killing a great many civilians. Any idea that you can do "surgical strikes" in Gaza is either egregious or intentionally deceptive. The effect here is something like the bombing of London, Rotterdam or Guernica.
Golda Meir used to say that there are no Palestinians ony "South Syrians." This punitive air offensive in Hannukah is either ineptly timed or eerily ironic when considered in the context of the story of the Maccabees. Maybe it just reflects contempt for the Palestinians? How dare they elect these "illegitimate" "Khamasteghoghist"s (quoting the lovely Livni). Why is it that a native speaker of Hebrew can't pronounce Hamas correctly? I am told that there is an aspirated "H" in Hebrew.
So far it sounds to be a Douhet style aerial attempt to bghaek the will of the Aghabs a la all over Lebanon in '06. The Palestinians (like the Lebanese then) have no anti-air defense to speak of so the bombing part should be pretty easy. The "will breaking" part always eems to be a little difficult. Has the IDF-AF lost any aircraft yet? This is always a good indicator of what is really happening.
So, they are going to beat up Gaza; 21 days to Obamaland (this should tie his hands!), Natanyahu leading in the polls, a good chance to put some space between the Americans and those pesky Muslims, an opportunity to prove that the IDF hasn't lost its wog bashing mojo.
Will there be a ground effensive into Gaza? I dunno. Have the Hamasniks been digging in Hezbullah style? You tell me. pl
"J" sent me this citation for the official Army Training and Doctrine Command website for the HTS. As I have written before, this program fills a massive lacuna in Army capability.
Today's US Army produces specialist officers who are generally part of the active force and who fill high level military-diplomatic and general staff positions. They are called "Foreign Area Officers" (FAOs) Such officers require lengthy academic and on the ground preparation in qualification for a career filled with such duties. They are not usually available to advise battlefield commanders at the brigade (3,000 soldiers) level. There are not enough of them for that and there will not be enough. It is a question of Army personnel priorities.
Something usually emerges to fill a vacuum, and the HTS program emerged after the beginning of the 9/11 wars to fill the need experienced by combat brigade commanders for advisers who could explain local populations to them and in turn explain coalition forces to the locals.
I have participated in the educational end of preparing some of these teams for deployment to both Iraq and Afghanistan. I found them to be very good students. The teams are typically made up of retired or reserve military personnel who manage the effort, indigenous interpreters and the civilian social scientists (political science, anthropology, economics) who are the core of the capability provided. So far, commanders in the field express great satisfaction with the service provided.
The social science associations have expressed some reservations about this program. They should think that over a bit. The Army has been careful not to make these teams part of the unit's intelligence function that produces intelligence that drives combat operations (kinetic).
This program is developing and evolving in a dynamic way that is responsive to the needs of the present and probable future engagements. The social science associations should seek to be involved in that development. pl
" The Bush administration's attempt to isolate Syria has failed, even in the judgment of senior White House officials. That leaves Assad in the catbird seat, courted by European and Arab nations and conducting back-channel talks through Turkey with his erstwhile enemy Israel.
Asked, for example, about reports that Saudi Arabia is seeking to improve its relations with Damascus because it sees U.S. engagement with Syria ahead and fears that "the train may be leaving the station," Assad laughed.
"Maybe it has already left the station," he said. But he vows that he is ready to receive any emissaries. "I have no problem with the Saudis. We would like good relations with every country in this region."
Assad said that he is ready to move to direct talks with Israel as soon as he receives clarification on two points: One, he wants assurance that the Israelis will withdraw fully from the Golan Heights. To clarify that issue, he sent a "borders document" to the Israelis this month that highlights some points along the pre-1967 border. As of Monday, he said, he hadn't received an Israeli response. His second condition for direct talks is that the United States join as a sponsor." Ignatius
The "borders" issue in the Golan Heights has become a non-issue. This is not the '60s. Israel's survival does not depend on the possession of a few hundred square kilometers of stony, scruffy land. Technology and capabilities have moved on. The military realities that the Likudniks like to talk about render such consideration "oldspeak," mere excuses for not giving up a square centimeter of the others side(s) land,
Bashar Assad's Syria has sought accommodation with the US for the last several years. This was firmly rejected by the Bush people because it was and is neocon/Likud doctrine that Syria must be subdued and eviscerated, not accommodated. Assad wants to be let out of the "doghouse." He wants there to be a new beginning for the Middle East, one that a modern man like him can accept. This is our chance and the biggest opportunity the Israelis have ever had. Can the Israelis and their American "friends" rise to the occasion. I doubt it. They are so paralyzed by fear that their options are self limiting. We should hope for the best. pl
"...when the President does something, it's not illegal. From the beginning with Cheney, even more than with Bush, the law was whatever he said it was.
He goes out the door as stubborn and defiant and out of touch as ever, talking about the way he defended and protected the Constitution. Talking now because soon nobody will care what he says. Saying that history will be so much kinder to him and Bush than their current critics. It can only mean Cheney believes history is dumber than Donald Rumsfeld's postoccupation strategy in Iraq." Mike Lupica
The red part is from Frost versus Nixon. I watched this Cheney interview. It was so disturbing that a general sense of malaise settled over the house in spite of the previous ascent into Yuletide cheer.
Cheney's utter certitude is the worst part. He is insistent that in "wartime" the president has dictatorial powers. He made a snide (but correct) little joke concerning Biden's inability to cite the Constitution correctly. He is unrepentent for having told Senator Leahy "go f**k yourself" in the senate. All these things speak of a man who is proclaiming to his followers the end of the rule of law in the United States. He is saying that "we did what we pleased and we got away with it." This lesson is being learned.
The "existential threat" to the United States by the Al-Qa'ida nuts was always greatly exagerated. Cheney is one of those responsible for the exageration. This was an exageration calculated to stampede the American people toward the occupation of Iraq in a war that was clearly a desired end of Bush policy from the beginning of his first term.
The law is what the president says it is? That principle should be tested in federal court. Everyone who loves this country as it has been, as the Framers intended it to be, should press for criminal indictments against Bush, Cheney, Rumsefeld et al. They should be made to defend themselves in the dock.
Will Obama want to do that? I doubt it. He is a member of the "club" of office holders now.
"The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody compromised our moral authority and damaged both our ability to attract allies to our side in the fight against terrorism and to win the support of people around the world for that effort. In May 2004, just after the pictures from Abu Ghraib became public, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said that the abuses depicted were simply the result of a few “bad apples” and that those responsible for abuse would be held accountable. More than seven months later, then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Asked about accountability for detainee abuses, Gonzales said “we care very much about finding out what happened and holding people accountable.” Neither of those two statements was true. " Report of the US Senate Armed Services Committee.
El presidente has decided to give GM and Chrysler money from the TARP. They have until March to re-structure enough to survive as distinct business entities. If they can't do that they have to re-pay the money. Oh? With what? Ford does not want any money just yet, maybe later.
Who thinks that the Big Three will solve their problems by March, or maybe July, or maybe October? I do not think that their financial situations will allow them to continue for much longer in their present form. Merger or liquidation awaits them.
As I said before, I have two excellent vehicles, one from GM, and the other from Ford. I am completely happy with them. Before these I had two Ford products. Both were without any problems. People like to say that the Big Three did not make good vehicles. I have never experienced that. People also say that the Big Three should not have made full sized cars, pick-up trucks, or SUVs. Well, capitalism implies obedience to market forces. Most Americans like big vehicles. The Big Three responded to that preference. If you prefer a command economy of the sort that we might approach in the USA, then you might have the opportunity to see if you like automotive products that environmental activists design. The products of the former Soviet automotive industry come to mind. Those who were lucky got "Lada." The nomenklatura rode around in "Zil." Do people think that the American nomenklatura are going to ride around in tiny electric or hybrid cars? Get real.
Gasoline will be below a dollar a gallon soon. How long the price will stay at that price level is not immediately apparent. Will most Americans want little cars when gasoline is at prices of that sort? I doubt it.
Do the environmental faithful believe that Obama would ask Congress to legislate against big vehicles if polling (triangulation) says that most people are opposed to that. Do people think that he will ask for high gasoline taxes? Come now! Look at his cabinet choices. This man is a politician, and a skilled one. 2012 is coming...
Someone suggested that I keep the Escalade as a museum exhibit. Who laughs last, laughs best.
Christopher Matthews continues his focus on the Bush Administration renewal of a government sanction for torture. Tonight he had as guests congresspersons Jim Moran (my rep.) and Duncan Hunter (R -Ca).
Matthews summoned them to deal with a bi-partisan congressional report that establishes a case for prosecution of Rummy, Addington, Yoo, Gonzales et al.
"Hardball," Christopher Matthews nightly rant, yesterday featured a "conversation" amongst Matthews, Michael Smerconish, and Christopher Hitchen. Matthews, who seems to have some residual sense of decency on the issue of torture, offered Cheney's recent defense of water boarding, etc. as a topic for discussion.
Hitchen made it clear that he would not tolerate the idea of government torture of anyone under any circumstances.
Smerconish said repeatedly that in his view there are no limits to what one can do to an al-Qa'ida suspect or detainee. Matthews asked him it would be acceptable to shoot the suspect's toes off one at a time. (This must be a reference to the wretched "24" program. Matthews lacks the imagination for creation of that "technique" on his own) Smerconish said that would be acceptable. How about a blowtorch? That was also said to be "fine." Smerconish reiterated his opinion that there are no limits in dealing with "them."
Matthews asked him what sort of system of morality led Smerconish to have such a view. After a little fumbling around it became clear that Smerconish does not consider Islamic terror suspects to be fully human. Further pressure caused Smerconish to admit that he does not think people outside his group, i.e., Americans, really are deserving of what are quaintly called "human rights."
Matthews said that he mostly agreed with this view, but that he thought some restraints still existed. I suppose the thought of his possible reception at the altar rail in approaching for the Eucharist might have had some restraining effect in that statement. Maybe.
Wikiworld "research" indicates that Smerconish is of Yugoslavian descent. pl
I arrived back from New York last night in time to see this exchange between Frank Gaffney and Christopher Matthews. David Korn was also in the discussion. Matthews was at his most memorable; abusive of his guests, raving, screaming. Gaffney was at his most egregious, insisting in this case that the idea that Saddam's regime might have had this or that weapon, or might someday have decided to use it against the United States had been reason enough to invade and occupy the county. Korn looked reasonable and tried to insert into the diatribe the fact that there were international weapons inspectors in Iraq before the '03 war who reported that they could find no WMD stockpiles or active programs. This attempted intervention mattered not. I left the room unable to watch this any longer.
The low point of the discussion came when Gaffney said that the 4,000 odd US soldiers who died in Iraq "had to die," as though they had died in a "crusade" to make all right. You remember, like the "Crusade in Europe?"
Well, my fellow Americans, these soldiers did not die in vain. They died for us in obedience to the orders of the government that your constitution created. Therefore, the responsibility for their deaths is ours. Some of you will believe that they have gone to something better. The rest of you will just have to live with it. pl
"Look at the list of those who lost money. Swiss private banks. Jewish family foundations. Retirees in Palm Beach. Not exactly the Fast Eddies of finance. But therein lay the brilliance of Madoff's scheme. He didn't promise the usual Ponzi manna from heaven--double or triple your money with Bernie Madoff's surefire, get-rich quick scheme! No, he promised and delivered 10% returns. So consistent were his returns in good times or bad, an investment in Madoff came to be called the "Jewish Bond." His investment strategy was a "black-box" model, one to which no one but him had access. And yet when the returns were good, no one bothered to ask how he was making them.
Madoff also moved easily in the familiar power networks of New York. He was chairman of the co-op board at his fancy Upper East Side building. He was chairman of the board of Yeshiva University's Business School. A member of exclusive country clubs in the Hamptons and Palm Beach. Strange as it may seem to people beyond this claustrophobic social world, these are not positions assigned lightly.
Madoff had earned the trust of individuals forged in the fires of New York finance, law and government, supposedly some of the toughest, smartest, savviest people in the world. He fooled them all over many years, and his reputation among them probably protected him from scrutiny." Forbes
The delis are grand. The pastrami is as nowhere else. Ben Benson's Steak House is perhaps my favorite watering hole anywhere. People walk fast. They talk fast. "Whaddaya got? What's next? Whaddaya got?" would be a typical conversational gambit by a proprietor in a small Manhattan shop. The brittle, hard edged attitude is hard to match except in Paris. Antagonistic cleverness is a point of pride. It is clear that New Yorkers are among the smartest, most worldly people in the country, if not the world. Their transplanted descendants in California are much the same. We country bumpkins are awestruck at their sophistication.
So, how did this "Ponzi scheme" happen? How did it succeed so well for so long? This is not a New York thing? Ah. You see. I did not realize that.
Nevertheless, it does seem that the "Big Apple" has suffered a good many setbacks this year. The disasters in the financial and commodities markets, the collapse of investment banks like Lehman Brothers and insurance giants like AIG, the ravages wrought by hedge fund managers spinning out fantasies of non-existent leveraged positions, Secretary Paulson, Chairman Bernancke, etc. Are these not all phenomena of NewYork City and its outlying barrios in Palm Beach, the Caribbean, etc.?
I will be there for the next days. I'll take a corned beef on Rye with mustard, to go. While I'm waiting I'll have a Manhattan straight up. pl
The man is very lucky to have survived the incident. Hadley, the National Security adviser had been busy telling reporters on the trip how well things are now going in Iraq in comparison to events in '05 and '06. Sometimes you just can't win for losing.
Bush showed considerable aplomb under "fire." He sounded a little punch drunk or maybe jet lagged? I wonder if he is going on to Afghanistan and maybe Pakistan from Baghdad.
Like all the world, I just want him to go away. No "Peace and Justice Commission." Just go away --- and take Hadley, Rice, Addington, etc. with you. pl
"The commander, Gen. Ray Odierno, said American troops would remain at numerous security outposts in order to help support and train Iraqi forces. “We believe that’s part of our transition teams,” he told reporters in Balad while accompanying Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who arrived on an unannounced trip Saturday.
General Odierno declined to say how many American troops might remain in Iraqi cities past the summer and said the number still remained to be negotiated with the Iraqi government under the terms of the so-called "status of forces agreement." “But what I would say is we’ll maintain our very close partnership with the Iraqi security forces throughout Iraq even after the summer.”" Bumiller in Wapo
This is not a change in policy, a variation from what Obama has been saying, or any different from what I have been saying will inevitably be the force posture in Iraq in the interim period between withdrawal of American combat units from the cities and the more or less complete departure of such units from the country in the time frame specified in the SOFA and strategic relationship agreements.
People in the press seem incapable of expressing a complex thought. When they speak of the intelligence world they always talk or write about "information gathering" as a description of the intelligence process. When they do that, they condition the public to imagine that the intelligence process is something like a pack of bloodhounds on the trail of information. In fact, the intelligence process is a cycle of collection-analysis-dissemination-re-tasking-collection-analysis, etc. In the same way, the press keeps saying that American forces will be out of the towns by next summer when what has been agreed is that major American COMBAT UNITS would be out of the towns by then. "Combat units" means battalions, brigades, regiments (marnies). Get the picture? It was never going to be agreed, nor was it, that advisers (called transition teams here), trainers, supply people and other odd support folks were going to be out of the towns for a couple of years. That might have made sense politically to some people but it would not make sense in the context of continuing to create security forces for Iraq. Odierno seems to have a less than felicitous way with the language (English) but I doubt if he and Gates will differ much on this issue.
Someone wrote to me about Afghanistan saying that an "economy of force" and limited resources strategy that employs a lot of Afghan government and tribal forces might be appropriate for Afghanistan rather than a continuation that centers on A LOT MORE American conventional forces. I think that is right, but that is a POLICY DECISION that should be made by the elected US Government. The key factor in making such a decision should be a clear vision of the US goal in Afghanistan. Once that is decided, then it will not be difficult to decide what kind of strategy should be followed. pl
"Walton, a Special Forces team leader, and his men described the battle in an interview with The Associated Press last week. Most seem unimpressed they've earned the Army's third-highest award for combat valor.
"This is the story about Americans fighting side-by-side with their Afghan counterparts refusing to quit," said Walton, of Carmel, Ind. "What awards come in the aftermath are not important to me."
The mission that sent three Special Forces teams and a company from the 201st Afghan Commando Battalion to the Shok Valley seemed imperiled from the outset.
Six massive CH-47 Chinook helicopters had deposited the men earlier that morning, banking through thick clouds as they entered the valley. The approaching U.S. soldiers watched enemy fighters racing to positions dug into the canyon walls and to sniper holes carved into stone houses perched at the top of the cliff.
Considered a sanctuary of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin terrorist group, the valley is far from any major American base.
It was impossible for the helicopters to land on the jagged rocks at the bottom of the valley. The Special Forces soldiers and commandos, each carrying more than 60 pounds of gear, dropped from 10 feet above the ground, landing among boulders or in a near-frozen stream.
With several Afghan commandos, Staff Sgt. John Walding and Staff Sgt. David Sanders led the way on a narrow path that zig-zagged up the cliff face to a nearby village where the terrorists were hiding.
Walton followed with two other soldiers and a 23-year-old Afghan interpreter who went by the name C.K., an orphan who dreamed of going to the United States." Yahoo News
"Crude-oil futures soared above $49 a barrel Thursday, propelled by sharp weakness in the dollar and expectations that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will deliver a significant production cut next week.
Crude for January delivery rose $4.46, or 10.2%, to end at $47.98 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Earlier, the contract hit an intraday high of $49.12 a barrel in electronic trading on Globex.
Other energy futures also rallied. January reformulated gasoline rose 11 cents, or 11%, to end at $1.08 a gallon and January heating oil gained 11 cents to finish at $1.51 a gallon." Marketwatch
Can OPEC decide on production cuts? Sure. Can the OPEC countries endure pain from loss of revenues brought on by demand destruction and lower prices? Probably not. Will the members cheat on their quotas trying to "make up" the lost revenue? Probably. Can OPEC discipline its members to ensure that they will not cheat on their production quotas? Certainly not.
Translation - Crude prices will appear to stabilize and then begin to fall again, pl
"In particular, ROD BLAGOJEVICH has been intercepted conspiring to trade the senate seat for particular positions that the President-elect has the power to appoint (e.g. the Secretary of Health and Human Services). ROD BLAGOJEVICH has also been intercepted conspiring to sell the Senate seat in exchange for his wife’s placement on paid corporate boards or ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s placement at a private foundation in a significant position with a substantial salary. ROD BLAGOJEVICH has also been intercepted conspiring to sell the Senate seat in exchange for millions of dollars in funding for a non-profit organization that he would start and that would employ him at a substantial salary after he left the governorship." Complaint against Blagojevich
"The Soup" specializes in American "reality" TV programs as metaphor for American social degeneracy. The Soupster painfully reviews all the silliness watched by empty headed idle people across "the land of the free and the home of the brave." Contests for achievement of the status of Paris Hilton's BFF, Hugh Hefner's latest..., etc. are employed as vehicles for a heavy handed critique of what we have become.
Surely the governor of Illinois must present the Soup with an opportunity for a "great leap" to political criticism. Why should Stewart and Leno have exclusive rights to such a rich vein of material for comment.
Illinois is now "short listed" for most corrupt state government in the USA. Louisiana and Rhode Island are "up there" as finalists, but Illinois seems to be in the lead for award of the title.
In the interest of fair play for Canadians, I have cited the "National Post" so that they might feel more at home in their gleeful commentary.
"In one of the largest and most brazen attacks of its kind, suspected Taliban insurgents with heavy weapons attacked two truck stops in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, destroying more than 150 vehicles carrying supplies bound for U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan.
The predawn attack on the outskirts of the city of Peshawar left the grounds of the truck terminals littered with the burned-out shells of Humvees and other military vehicles being transported by private truckers. At least one guard was reported killed." LA Times
"Nato is negotiating with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to allow supplies for Nato forces, including fuel, to cross borders into Afghanistan from the north. The deal, which officials said was close to being agreed, follows an agreement with Moscow this year allowing Nato supplies to be transported by rail or road through Russia.
The deal could allow more fuel for Nato forces to be transported from refineries in Baku, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan. Most of the 75m gallons of fuel estimated to be used by Nato forces annually in Afghanistan comes from refineries in Pakistan.
Germany and Spain, whose troops are based in more peaceful northern Afghanistan, have negotiated separate bilateral air transport agreements with Russia.
Nato officials said yesterday that the organization is negotiating with Ukraine and Belarus for a land route which, though long, would avoid Pakistan and the pirates of the Gulf of Aden." Guardian
The long standing vulnerability of coalition forces in Iraq to "line of communication" (LOC) interdiction on the roads from Kuwait to central Iraq was never exploited to its potential by the inhabitants of the Shia south of Iraq. Conflicted Shia politics, and Iranian unwillingness to bring on that great a crisis were largely responsible for the avoidance of what might have been a catastrophic situation.
There do not seem to be similar inhibitions with regard to LOCs leading to Afghanistan. Political and business relationships in Pakistan are entwined in complex patterns that are exacerbating the threat to land based LOCs that extend from Karachi to Kabul through the FATA and from Karachi to Kandahar through Baluchistan.
The NATO powers are wisely seeking alternative routes through Russia and the central Asian states.
This is a good idea but I am sure that everyone involved understands that these new LOCs will give the hosting countries a great deal of leverage. pl
The "National Journal" has a number of "by invitation" blogs for supposed experts on various topics. This one deals with national security issues. I have been asked to comment there and will do so starting today. I will include links in SST to their day's business as appropriate. pl
I remember that someone said in these pages after the election that "The Left" would be disappointed in Barack Obama as president. David Corn is disappointed. He is certainly of "the left." In person, he projects a tough, brittle, wise guy, Rahmish aura. In the article linked above he is revealed in his pain and angst as a rather naive man who actually believed that Obama was the real messiah. Corn is now devastated to learn that Barack Obama is a man like all other men, someone who must cope with various realities.
It was announced on Meet The Press today that David Gregory will succeed Russert.
On Meet The Press today Obama made it clear that he will govern from the center in the belief that real problems must be dealt with in the context of objective reality, and not in the context of neocon plans for world re-organization or idealistic massive social engineering schemes here in the United States. Can this mean that BO is a member of the fabled "reality based community?"
The Economy is collapsing. He intends to fix it. That will require further massive deficit spending. He thinks it regrettable, but necessary. I agree. The Big Three are poorly run and deserve nothing in bailouts. True. Nevertheless, these three companies are integral to the recovery of the American economy. Therefore they should be saved if it is possible. I agree. (Incidentally, my family owns a Cadillac and a Ford [US].) He intends to intensify regulation of the financial institutions of the country. I agree. I hope he does something about the illegal practice of "naked shorting." Many a good company has been ruined by this form of speculation. None of this amounts to the kind of radical "change" for which the Left hoped. Will there be some sort of national health care plan? Probably. We need this, and it would be hypocritical for me to oppose it.
In foreign policy Obama faces a situation in which there are few "win-win" solutions available to him. He will seek to relegate foreign affairs to second priority for his government. He will disappoint Palestinians, Muslims and Zionists. The neocons are already pleased with the opportunity that his centrist positions and appointments provides for claims of victory for their policies. The clear gratification of the neocons will further dishearten the Left.
Many of his Obama's backers are liberal Zionists opposed to anything other than a one-sided peace between the Israelis on the one hand and the Palestinians, Arabs, and/or Muslim on the other. Peace is not available on the basis of a one-sided two state solution. Obama can not deliver such a peace and so the Zionists will be disappointed as will as the Arabs, etc. The Palestinians will not accept such a peace and will continue their national resistance for another few generations with occasional violent uprisings. This festering situation will continue to poison American relations with much of the world.
All Zionists are not Likud in their politics and strategic views, but all Zionists are in favor of a one sided solution just as all Islamists are seeking the permanent establishment of shari'ah states. Given his internal US political inhibitions, I doubt that Obama will be able to do much towards real US brokering of peace in the Holy Land.
Iran? Much the same thing applies. Do not look for positive change in US/Iran relations. The same forces that do not want to see other than than a one-sided peace in the Holy Land do not want to see Iran become a power in the Middle East that can threaten the existence of Israel. MAD depends on mutual threat. Israel does not accept the notion of nuclear deterrence for itself, only for others. Therefore Israel's backers do not accept the possibility of technologically competent Muslim states. Such states are an inherent threat, not to the United States, but to Israel.
A Syrian-Israeli peace? This is "low hanging fruit" at present, but in the absence of improvement in US/Iranian relations, success is doubtful.
Lebanon? As go Iran and Syria, so will go Lebanon.
Afghanistan? What could be heard on MTP this AM was the emergence of an Afghan policy that will seek to make something "modern" of Afghanistan. That means a program that might last 50 or 60 years and that will involve; a lot of infrastructural development projects, 50,000 foreign troops, specialists who can deal with "the culture thing," and the use of groups of Afghans against each other (always a fruitful approach). This is a policy choice. Once Obama makes that choice, he will own it.
Iraq? We are on our way out over the period of BO's first term. David Corn et al will be unhappy that that the withdrawal of our combat units will not involve TOTAL withdrawal, but this is yet another example of their naivete.
Pakistan? The country was probably a mistake, but it exists now. Solution of the Kashmir Problem through partition is the only possible path for improvement in dealing with the two nuclear powers of the sub-continent. Counter-guerrilla activities? Bandaids.
African-Americans will be disappointed in Obama as well, but that will be another "post."
As for our new president to be, I wish him well and am happy to have voted for him. pl
We have been discussing the possible future course of American and world economic affairs. Let us expand this discussion to include the political effect that various economic "futures" might have on the development of history in the next decades. pl
The price per barrel is now approaching $42. We should consider the implications. If the price of crude continues to fall, then at some point there will be widespread shut-downs of production and exploration.
OPEC will meet soon to seek a solution to the decline in their resource basis that is inherent in the massive price decline. There has been so much destruction of demand in the course of the world economic crisis that it may not be possible for OPEC to enforce restraint on the financial "hunger" of its members for the funds that come from high levels of production. In other words, this decline in price may be beyond the power of OPEC to reverse. The decline in the oil market has become emblematic of the larger economic decline. Is the world headed for another Great Depression and is the oil industry leading the way down into "the pit?"
I was lucky enough to have Dr. Silverman in a class I taught a while back. He has returned the favor by today sending me two short papers on The recent WMD report and the Mumbai attacks. The picture to the left IS NOT Dr. Silverman but my own idea of an HTS team member at work. pl
Adam L. Silverman, PhD is a Social Science Advisor with the US Army's Human Terrain System. His views are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Human Terrain System, the US Army's Training and Doctrine Command, and/or the US Army.
Pirates? Somali pirates? Are there no more navies in the world? What are all those big grey boats for?
I remember the pirate thing. It was at the "Admiral Benbow" that Long John Silver (the other one), Squire Trelawny, Dr. Livesey and the guys hooked up for high adventure. I don't suppose that anyone remembers that there was a "Return to Treasure Island?" It was cool. And then there was "The Pyrates" by GM Fraser, also very, very cool.
And then there is the strange and mysterious phenomenon of the Treasure Pit on Oak Island, Nova Scotia....
Real pirates? Where are all the gunboats when they are needed? Maybe the US Coast Guard should take care of this if the navies can not manage it. pl
At the risk of being accused of complaining about a system that did not promote me past colonel, I will say the following: the system of promotion in the military trains these men to be self serving. Why are people surprised when they are self serving? pl
Contrary to the opinion of Christopher Matthews, life is not a campaign. In democratically organized polities there are processes called elections in which candidates seek to persuade electors to vote for them. In the course of doing that, they also seek to persuade electors that they should not vote for their opponents. To accomplish that, they strike rhetorical poses on "the stump" that are often essentially meaningless. This campaign drivel should not be taken very seriously as indication of personal animus or policy intent. Perhaps the broad strokes have some meaning but certainly not the detail.
Translation: Obama's intent to diplomatize the foreign policy of the United States should be taken seriously. His campaign debate with Secretary-designate Clinton over her vote concerning the Iraq War should not be taken as anything other than the trivia of the political process.
As Obama said today, the press is entitled to "have fun" by trying to treat seriously the things said in the campaigning. The rest of us should watch their antics with the amused boredom that they deserve. pl
PS. I think HC will be a great Secretary of State.
George W. Bush gave Charles Gibson an interview recently in which he said that among his regrets was that "the intelligence had not been better on WMD in Iraq."
Blaming the intelligence people is a standard ploy of failed politicians and flag officers. In every country and in every clime.... In this case Bush's White House set out to fabricate a case for war with Iraq. They bullied weak and self-serving leaders in the intelligence community into accepting a case built on raw information reports that had been rejected by the very agencies that had collected them.
"Slam Dunk!" George Tenet cried out in the Oval Office. What he meant was that it would be a "slam dunk" to sell the dross of those reports to Congress and the boobs.
I mean you...
Paul Wolfowitz gave away the game when he said after the fact that the administration took up the issue of Iraqi WMD because they knew it would sell, but millions of you still believed the BS. You don't deserve the right to vote.
There are still millions of sheople who think that there really were nuclear weapons (the only things that mattered) in Iraq. Feel good now? Your "leader" has abandoned you. pl
"Top Indian officials have suggested that groups based in Pakistan had some involvement in the attacks, but the officials have not explicitly blamed the Pakistani government. The options on the table for responding, officials and analysts said, range from the suspension of diplomatic relations to the most extreme and least likely, a cross-border raid into Pakistan against suspected training camps for militants.
On Monday, in response to the attacks and India's charges, the Pakistani prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, called for a national security conference to be held Tuesday with the aim of developing a policy on India, according to Reuters. Pakistan has denied any role in the attacks, calling them a "barbaric act of terrorism."
While Indian officials insisted publicly that the mayhem was carried out by only 10 heavily armed men, there were new indications that others had been involved and that the attackers had at least some accomplices prepositioned on the ground." NY Times
Now is the time for everyone to calm down and wait to see what is the finding of the joint investigation of the Mumbai attacks by India and Pakistan.
These two countries were born in enmity for each other at the time of the British departure from their Indian Empire. They are naturally filled with suspicion and hostility for each other and both have nuclear weapons. They have been to war against each other before and have nearly gone to war against each other on other occasions. The occasion that I remember the best was the crisis engendered by the Indian military exercise called "Brass Tacks." Preparations for that war game was interpreted by Pakistan as "cover" for preparations for actual war. Diplomatic interest in the Indian "maneuver" was mis-interpreted by Pakistan as indicating foreign "knowledge" of the true Indian plan. The possibility of war was narrowly averted.
Let us not push these two countries towards war by stoking the fires of their mutual dislike. The Mumbai attackers may have been Pakistani nationals or perhaps they were not. They may have been members of some Islamic jihadi group based in Pakistan or perhaps they were not. Such membership would not necessarily mean that the Pakistan government was involved in these attacks.
Lately, the two countries have bee working to improve their mutual relations. Let us not "torpedo" that progress in the mainstream media or in the blogosphere. pl